Clean Plate Awards
Sidecar Doughnuts & Coffee, Costa Mesa, Calif.
This tiny, well-designed store sells a homemade huckleberry doughnut that I seek out every time I visit the area. Fresh huckleberries are folded into the batter and it bakes up into a dense, cakelike doughnut. Sidecar frosts it with a creamy, irresistible icing. It’s to die for.
Pork Belly Banh Mi
East Borough, Costa Mesa, Calif.
This very casual, very little Vietnamese spot is located in an “anti-mall” called The CAMP, which doesn’t allow any chain restaurants or stores. There are just 10 items on the menu, including these amazing banh mi. The pork belly is lemongrass-marinated and grilled, then layered with cucumbers, cilantro, jalapeños, pickled daikon and carrots, and served on a fresh-baked baguette. It’s juicy and perfect, especially washed down with their lavender iced tea.
Lamb Chops and Milos Special
Estiatorio Milos, The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
I crave the grilled lamb chops at Milos—they’re one of my favorites. I order them with the Milos Special: lightly tempura-fried zucchini and eggplant with tzatziki and kefalograviera cheese. Milos also serves my favorite vodka, Hanger One Mandarin. Whenever I visit Las Vegas, about five times a year, I order all three.
Matzo Ball Soup
Bubby’s, New York City
Bubby’s is a standout for brunch; lots of energy, good food and drinks. I start with a couple of Bloody Marys; Bubby’s does all its own juicing so the cocktails are really fresh. Then I have the incredible matzo ball soup—an unusual item to serve at brunch, but it really hits the spot. The matzo balls are very fluffy and the chicken broth, rich and delicious.