100 best things we ate and drank in 2007 (in no particular order)
1. Beet salad | Sola
Anyone who had this summer offering knows Sola’s little secret: Beet salad can be innovative. At least it is the way Carol Wallack does it, cutting different varieties of beets into puzzlelike pieces and fitting them together on the plate in a gorgeous geometric display that would be ruined—ruined!—with the stereotypical (but, here, graciously omitted) addition of goat cheese. 3868 N Lincoln Ave (773-327-3868). $7. Seasonal.
2. Oxtail ravioli | Aigre Doux
One of the most anticipated openings of the year, Aigre Doux is still being anticipated—the long-promised bakery/café portion of the restaurant has yet to be realized. Luckily these toothsome pasta pockets stuffed with juicy oxtail meat make the wait just a little bit easier. 230 W Kinzie St (312-329-9400). $12.
3. Spice-rubbed pork | Azucar!
Azucar! was the most exciting opening of the year! (Or at least the most energetic!) And when you eat this pork, the tender medallions contrasted by the crunchy pistachios, the excitement is catching! Especially when you see how cheap the food is here!!! 2647 N Kedzie Ave (773-486-6464). $10.
4. Oysters Rockefeller | Tramonto’s Steak & Seafood
Despite all of the tricks and gimmicks Rick Tramonto has up his sleeve (TRU’s caviar staircase comes to mind), it’s this deliciously simple classic (served on a bed of cinnamon, star anise and peppercorn–infused sea salt) that steals the show at his steakhouse. 601 N Milwaukee Ave, Wheeling (847-777-6575). $14; available occasionally on special.
5. Mixiote de borrego | Tepatulco
Geno Bahena is a sauce man, a chef whose moles and other sauces stand out as the clear winners on his plates. That’s not to say the lamb in this stew is inconsequential—it’s impossibly tender. But the pasilla-pepper sauce that it’s immersed in has such a lingering, intricate flavor that you can’t help but think of it for days afterward. 2558 N Halsted St (773-472-7419). $21.
6. Pan con timba | El Cubanito
How do you create a new cult sandwich? Take three ingredients (crusty bread, mild Swiss cheese, sweet guava). Press them together. Repeat until the lines die down or, more likely, you run out of food. 2555 N Pulaski Rd (773-235-2555). $2.50.
7. Granola | Milk & Honey
Who knew that brown sugar–toasted oats could grow into such a side business that Milk & Honey would have to set up a separate production plant just to keep up with demand? The combo of caramelized oats, dried cherries, sunflower seeds and almonds is so good we’ve killed a bag just standing in line. Grab two so you can make it home with some. 1920 W Division St (773-395-9434), 1543 N Damen Ave (773-227-1167). $6.
8. Caramels | Katherine Anne Confections
These are the best caramels we’ve tasted all year. They’re made with honey (local wildflower honey, actually), giving them a complexity that run-of-the-mill sugar-only caramels can’t match; and they’re incredibly soft, slowly melting on the tongue instead of getting stuck in your teeth. katherine-anne.com. $8.50 for a quarter pound.