Phil Vettel’s top dishes of 2014

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I ate very well in 2014 --- fact is, I eat very well most years --- but each year, certain dishes are particularly memorable. Some of them are clever, some creative but all of them are delicious. Herein, my favorite restaurant dishes of the year.

We’ll start with the broccoli salad at Boka restaurant in Lincoln Park; Lee Wolen has a way with veggies, and this salad, with lemon-kissed raw broccoli, marcona almonds and parmesan sablet over a puddle of Greek yogurt and broccoli puree, is as tasty as it is beautiful. For soup, my pick is the potato soup I enjoyed at 42 Grams, a high-end BYO restaurant in Uptown. The soup is so full of flavor it’s like drinking pureed fingerlings, and I love the garden of peas, greens, potato and tomato chips and black caviar perched on the bowl’s rim.

For a quick-bite appetizer, you can’t go wrong with the boquerones at mfk in East Lakeview. These cured white anchovies sit on pieces of grilled baguette, with piquillo peppers and shaved fennel; each bite gives you sweet, tart and briny flavors, ending with a satisfying crunch. Another great appetizer, from A10 in Hyde Park, consists of skewered sweetbreads and prosciutto, laid across a bowl of fontina-cheese fondue. Absolutely delicious.

Among larger plates, I was impressed by the birds. First, roasted quail from Salero in the West Loop; the extraordinarily meaty bird is stuffed with chorizo, then set over a piquant piquillo sauce with some wilted spinach, and it’s a wonderful dish. And I have to pay homage to the roasted chicken at River Roast in River North; this bird is cold-smoked and then roasted at high temperature, resulting in a juicy, crispy-skinned thing of beauty; and those baked-then-fried potatoes underneath are a creamy counterpoint to all that meat.

Then it’s on to dessert, and I cheated a bit here, but hey, it’s my list. Cicchetti restaurant, a Streeterville restaurant that sadly is now closed, wowed me with this chocolate cannoli dish by pastry chef Sarah Jordan. Thumb-sized crisp pastry pieces, filled with dark chocolate and hazelnut ganache, are arranged among dark-chocolate sorbetto, sweet-potato flan and candied blood orange. Beautiful.

2014 was a tasty little year, but 2015 will be here in a couple of weeks, and I, and my appetite, will be ready.

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