Brisket from Mighty Quinn (NYC)
"It's entirely possible that the best thing I ate in 2012 was the Mighty Quinn's barbecue brisket at Smorgasburg, which he is now making and selling at his storefront barbecue joint in New York's East Village. Hung Mangum, aka the Mighty Quinn, smokes whole briskets using just wood in this J&R Smoker. That would be cause enough for celebration, but when you add in the facts that Mangum really knows what he's doing, slices the meat for his sandwiches to order, and throws on just enough sea salt on each sandwich before he serves it to you, you get a barbecue sandwich that is not just great for NYC, it's seriously great barbecue anywhere you slice (and eat and smoke) it. Look out, Texas and KC. Here comes the Mighty Quinn." —Ed Levine, Serious Eats Overlord
Israeli Breakfast (all over Israel)
"Waking up early in Israel was never a problem for me. There was usually a bountiful breakfast spread awaiting: fresh vegetable salads, hummus, baba ghanoush, pickled fish, olives (in various colors and shades), shakshuka (served in its cast-iron pan), the universe's finest cottage cheese, other delicious cheese, flakey bourekas, still-warm breads, butter, and fresh fruit preserves. One of my favorite breakfasts was at Manta Ray in Tel Aviv. The fact that it was overlooking the beach didn't hurt either." —Erin Zimmer, national managing editor
Hähnchen döner mit gemüse from Mustafa's (Berlin)
"One of my biggest regrets this year was that I only ate at Mustafa's Gemüse Kebap once during my vacation in Berlin this past April. Once wasn't enough. I should've visited like...every day. From what I could tell, it's Berlin's most famous döner spot, and for good reason: they take loads of tender 'n crisp chicken shavings, top it with exceptionally fresh chopped vegetables and crumbled salty cheese, and stuff it all in a well toasted fat-pita-like bun. All for under $4. I think about this sandwich a lot. Probably too often." —Robyn Lee, editor of AHT
Kale from Marin Sun Farms (Point Reyes Station, CA)
"After seeing Carey and SF contributor Lauren Sloss's photos from Marin Sun Farms, I was there practically the next weekend. I'm not a burger gal, so I honed in on the kale. Fried in pork fat, topped with parmesan and lemon, and graced with a creamy aoili, it's certainly just as decadent. The kale has a addictively crisp texture and every bite is a different mix of fat, acid, and vegetal bitterness that keeps you coming back for more. To those people who think kale is 'over,' I say, good, more for me in 2013." —Carrie Vasios, editor of Serious Sweets
Grilled Oysters from Drago's in New Orleans
"It's impossible to compare a year's worth of meals. But the happiest a single plate of food made me had to be these grilled oysters at Drago's in New Orleans. Lift each charred shell carefully and you're met with a pool of oyster liqueur, butter and garlic, Parmesan crusted around the edges, a whiff of smoke, and the plump, juicy creature itself. Is that bite straight out of the shell the best one... or is it the simple crusty bread you use to soak up the rich, briny juice that stays behind in the bowl? I really can't say.
"It certainly didn't hurt that I enjoyed these with good company at Tales of the Cocktail, where, as you might imagine, I needed a substantial meal to set me right. I've rarely pounced on a plate of food so happily." —Carey Jones, senior managing editor
Brisket from Franklin BBQ (Austin)
"It may take 2 1/2 hours before you finally pull up to the front of the line at Franklin Barbecue in Austin, but when you do, Aaron Franklin himself will be there, slicing off some burnt ends and passing them to you on a piece of wax paper with the instructions to share. After tasting them, I dare you to look him directly in the face and see if you can resist ordering at least a half pound.
At $16 a pound, it's not the cheapest brisket in the land, but it is incomparably tender and flavorful. A well seasoned, smoky bark gives way to meat basted in glorious rendered fat and connective tissue that's broken down into a rich sauce. The sides and other barbecue are all excellent, but the brisket is mind-blowingly good." —J.Kenji Lopez-Alt, Chief Creative Officer
Brisket from Franklin's Barbecue (Austin)
Wonton Mee at Chang Sun Hong Kong Style Roasted (Singapore)
"My last breakfast in Singapore came from a small roast meat shop on Keong Saik Road in Chinatown. It was this bowl of wonton mee: char siu roast pork with springy hoisin-slicked noodles, some greens, and some wontons in broth. It isn't much to look at: really, it's as ordinary as food can get in the country. But eating it became one of those impactful experiences where you can literally watch the lines come together and make a memory you know will stay with you. The glistening crust on the meat; the bounce of the noodles against their funky sweet sauce; the delicacy of the wontons and the crunch of the greens. Something this good doesn't happen by accident. It's ordinary but it's not easy. You look at the people hacking at the hunks of roast pork and tending the noodle pots and you realize that they've been doing this for years, even decades. This exact thing. And it's a part of them. You can't separate the food from the cook.
In truth I've had more complicated, mind-blowing, ravishing bites of food this year. They came from inspired, mad-cap chefs pouring their creativity and love out onto the stovetop. But there's something about this wonton mee—the expert execution of something so ordinary—that keeps coming back to me. To have a food culture where even the ordinary things are given their full respect—that's a lucky thing indeed." —Max Falkowitz, editor of Serious Eats New York
Grilled Lamb and Onions (Tel Aviv)
"In February in Tel Aviv, my friend Talia brought me to this stall in the shuk serving grilled lamb and onions topped with tahini for 5 shekels ($1.34USD as of this writing). Most people get it in a sandwich but it was perfect served in this little bowl (Talia's call)." —Ben Fishner, tech support
Double header: Dinners at Kin Shop and Perilla (NYC)
"It's harder than usual to pick my best bites this year; I moved from New York to California and did quite a tour of favorite restaurants in the city before heading west. One bite I'll miss for sure: the duck meatballs at Perilla in the West Village. So tender and rich and delicious, made with such care even though they've been on the menu for years. I think that restaurant is totally underrated; there are always great, unusual salads and the farro risotto is ridiculous. I also visited Kin Shop that same week for one more goat curry." —Maggie Hoffman, editor of Serious Drinks
Tuna Muffaletta at Publican Quality Meats (Chicago)
"Eating all of the sandwiches at Publican Quality Meats was one of the more rewarding experiences of the year, especially since each sandwich was so unique and delicious. But if I had to choose my favorite of the bunch, it'd be the tuna muffaletta. It never occurred to me that tuna could be used in the classic New Orleans sandwich, the huge hunks of fish, lightly brined olives, and just a few pickled chiles, prove that but Paul Kahan and company sure know what they are doing here.
This take on the New Orleans' classic trades the standard layers of cured meat for huge hunks of poached albacore tuna--a strange twist that doesn't immediately sound like it would work. But all the other elements are adjusted, too. The olives in the olive salad are only lightly brined, while some pickled chiles add a slight bit of heat. It's all held in a focaccia with tonnato sauce, which isn't nearly as dense as you expect it to be." ——Nick Kindelsperger, editor of Serious Eats Chicago