Best Plates of 2014

For the third year running I have had the pleasure of reflecting on the past year’s culinary experiences. In 2014 I did not travel as much as I did in the year prior, but nonetheless was able to make it two restaurants in particular that were high on my list: Willow’s Inn and Saison.

When comparing this year’s list of best plates against that of 2013, I noticed that many of my favorites from this past year were dishes that appear very minimal; one-biters without a lot of fluff. This can be seen in the four dishes I’ve listed from Willow’s Inn and Saison. Perhaps this is simply because of where I dined this year, but a part of me believes it highlights a larger trend in the high-end space.

This is also the first list in which I’ve included a dish that had somewhat of a big flaw, albeit in texture not in flavor. Despite this shortfall the flavor and nostalgia that the dish evoked were significant, which earned it a spot. The list also includes several pasta dishes; a first for my “best plates” lists.

Of course my list is dominated by plates enjoyed here in Minneapolis, as this is where I reside. However, their inclusion and relative geographic advantage should not diminish their stock. Minneapolis, especially in the past year, has grown significantly. New culinary minds have arrived to challenge the upper echelon of old. With this pace, Minneapolis is sure to be a food destination for the like-minded in 2015.

As I do every year, I’d like to thank everyone involved with continuing to fuel my passion for cuisine and dining. I hope to travel and immerse myself in even more this year!

Here, in no particular rank and ordered chronologically, were my favorite plates of 2014:

Heyday – Minneapolis, MN

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High-end dining, molecular gastronomy, and white tablecloths are some of my favorite things. I love experiencing the newest, highest levels of cuisine every chance I get, especially when I travel. But, here at home I’ll often find myself in the mood for some great food without the pomp and circumstance of dressing in a suit in a low lit dining room. Every now and again I just want delicious, inventive food in a relaxed atmosphere. Piccolo was the only restaurant to occupy my “frequent rotation” list in this category. With the opening of Heyday, Chef Flicker and Piccolo now have company on that list.

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Victory 44 – Minneapolis, MN

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Fresh from my recent visit to Travail I was in the mood yet again to scope out another neighborhood eatery known for its casual feel, but more importantly for a refined and adventurous menu. Although a long time resident of my “must try” list for restaurants around town, Victory 44′s location up in the northwestern part of Minneapolis has kept me from it, and wrongfully so. My early arrival at 5:10pm was greeted with a full parking lot, a minor inconvenience that served as an indicator to the restaurant’s popularity.

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Travail Kitchen & Amusements – Minneapolis, MN

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To doubt the popularity of Travail and its staff (past and present) would seem foolhardy. From its wildly popular first restaurant, Travail has spawned two spin-off establishments and a pop-up restaurant. On top of that there’s also the astonishingly successful Kickstarter campaign which raised over $200,000 to build Travail 2.0. “Travailians” have been abuzz about the grand opening of the new Travail, an event which came to pass this week.

We opened Travail three years ago with $2,000 in the bank and a purpose—to make fine dining food interactive, approachable, affordable, and a lot of fun.

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Sea Change – Minneapolis, MN

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Being landlocked in the middle of the country, Minnesota is not a place where one would normally expect to have high quality seafood. While there are a few options around town for fresh seafood, none are quite as grandiose as Sea Change. Attached to the Gurthrie Theater, Sea Change focuses on showcasing sustainable seafood in an elegant, fine dining atmosphere.

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