Looking Back on the the Best Dishes and their Chef Creators of 2018

By on January 5, 2019

After the close of a year I like to look back over the hundreds of dishes I’ve enjoyed in the Tulsa Metro area and try to narrow down some of my personal favorites. It’s a difficult task. We are all very privileged to live in this city of Tulsa, so rich in culinary talent. Here, I give you my top ten dishes and their chef creators of 2018. I reluctantly placed them in order. But, I must say in all sincerity that each dish on this list ranked “best dish fo the year” in my mind as I was seeing it and tasting it specifically in the moment. So, I truly could count all of these as a tie for number one, as they each individually brought something unique to the conversation of “what was your favorite dish of 2018”. But nevertheless, here are my top ten fo 2018, ranked.

1) Matt Owen. The Reserve at Grogg’s Green Barn. Spicy Wings.

Matt Owen’s dishes never cease to amaze. He serves a new menu every week during the season at Grogg’s. You could pick any dish at random and it would be worthy of this list. That’s more or less what I did. “I was a bit bored one day,” said Matt, “so I decided to get cute with bar food. Chicken wings. I made a confit of wing meat, mixed it with stock that was high in gelatin, and shaped it into a terrine. The red is shishito peppers mixed with some chili vinegar I made last summer. This was a great year for shishito and, like everything else, they get sweeter the longer they’ve been on this planet. And scallions. I developed a great love for scallions while I was living in Hawaii because it was often the only fresh vegetable I could get.”

2) Kevin Snell. Amelia’s. Cuttlefish ink ravioli stuffed with black silkie chicken meat.

At first, Amelia’s was all about the grill. But Executive Chef Kevin Snell wasn’t satisfied with that for long. He’s the kind of guy who always loves to learn and tinker and push the boundaries, and so he has moved beyond the amazing Argentine grill to prepare the best dishes he can using whatever cooking method works best. Kevin made this one night for a charity dinner and had enough left over to give some to me. The ravioli was festooned with black stripes made from cuttlefish ink and was stuffed with the meat of black silkie chickens. The rich sauce was made with duck stock and on a hill in the middle were savory macerated berries. If only you could preserve food, they would hang it in a museum.

3) Matt Amberg. Oren. Smoked Duck.

Matt Amberg’s approach to cuisine, rigorous and traditional yet dazzlingly creative, was learned by years spent working beside New York City’s most famous chefs. As with quite a few of this year’s best, I could pick any dish and it would be a winner. But this smoked duck is so gorgeous I had to put it in.

4) Paul Wilson. Boston Title and Abstract. Lamb.

I’ve been a fan of Paul Wilson for many years. He’s always had genius and I knew that one day he’d create world-class dishes that would just leave me speechless. Now he has. He pushes the envelope every week with his special weekly menu, and this is just one delicious example, his lamb with grapes.

5) Kevin Nashan. Peacemaker Lobster and Crab. Lobster boil.

I’ve eaten lobster in Maine, hard by the briny Atlantic. I’ve dined on lobster in a little restaurant in Greece with tables right next to the Aegean. But I’ve never had better lobster than this. Flown in fresh from Maine. Everything else in the boil is just about perfect, and the biscuit is better than your grandma’s.

6) Roque Heidler. Chalkboard. Foie Gras with Spice Blends.

I never thought anyone could make foie gras taste better, but somehow Roque Heidler’s magic powders do. And, as always, Roque creates art on a plate.

7) Holly Biersack. Sette Italian Brick Oven. Fettuccine with Wild Mushroom.

Holly Biersack puts her heart and soul into every dish she serves, but it’s this fettucine that I fine myself ordering again and again. I can’t stop eating that rich mushroom and cheese sauce tossed in fresh hand made pasta and served with bright edible flowers and micro greens.

8) Raquan Bennett. Bin 35. Airline Chicken Breast.

I was writing an article about Raqaun Bennett, one of the notable new talents on the Tulsa culinary scene, and I asked him what dish best exemplifies his cooking. The chicken breast, he said. I’m not eating chicken breast, I exclaimed. But I did, and it was so good that everyone at the table fought over that last bite. Which is exactly what Raqaun hoped to achieve. Raqaun has moved to Boston Deli but Korey King and the rest of Raqaun’s team are doing a fine job at Bin 35 and will be happy to serve you this dish.

9) Stephen Lindstrom. Bird and Bottle. Pork Chop.

The elegant dining room is always booked far in advance. The word of Stephen Lindstrom’s talent has now spread far and wide. Flamboyant, perfectly prepared entrees abound, with daily specials. This lovely pork chop was just one of them.

10) Sin Fronteras. Honduran Seafood Chowder.

“Great! Thai curry”, says everyone who’s seen this photo. Taste it, rich in coconut and spices, and you’re sure it’s from southeast Asia. Except it’s not. It’s from Honduras, whose rich culinary tradition, enriched by the Garifuni, a reclusive people who live in small coastal villages since the day 400 years ago when their ancestors escaped from Spanish slave ships. “Hurry up”, said my companion, “you’ve been eating that soup for half an hour.” But I couldn’t stop until I’d more or less licked the bowl clean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brian Schwartz

About Brian Schwartz

Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society. www.theomegasociety.com I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola. “A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.

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