On January 4, 2019, I celebrated 10 years of Pop.Bop.Shop. On that anniversary post, several readers commented with the same suggestion: that I extend the toast to the decade by sharing a Top 10 list each month of my best discoveries from the past 10 years. Well, I thought that was absolutely brilliant, and decided to implement it immediately.
In case you missed any of the previous lists, you can check them out here:
- Top 10: Brunch Spots
- Top 10: Viewing Party Moments
- Top 10: Favorite Books
- Top 10: Outdoor Dining Spots
- Top 10: Dog-Friendly Spots
- Top 10: Cape Cod Spots
- Top 10: Martha's Vineyard Musts
- Top 10: Ice Cream Favorites
- Top 10: Birthday Meals
- Top 10: Pumpkin Dishes
- Top 10: Gratitude Moments
For the December list, it felt only right to do a year in review. I typically do these David Letterman-style, going from #10 to #1, but today I am breaking down the winners by category. Here we go!
I start each new year by hosting multiple awards show viewing parties. The Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards are usually in January, with the Oscars following in February or March. I've tried all kinds of decor, flower arrangements and special foods over the past 10 years, but my favorite new thing from 2019 was these M&M and mini cupcake champagne flutes!
This idea is so simple, but the presentation is gorgeous and immediately eye-catching.
Looking back at all my restaurant meals over the past 12 months caused an urgent desire to repeat every one of them!
Let's start with two amazing places at Baha Mar in the Bahamas, the location of my tropical getaway this winter. On our second night of the trip we had a reservation at Katsuya, a Japanese restaurant. I was obsessed from the moment I saw the menus. How sexy are these?
We proceeded to order multiple savory dishes and loved every single one.
We also had two fantastic desserts. Surprise, surprise, the molten chocolate cake was my favorite.
In addition to a cool atmosphere and one delicious plate after another, we were also seated two tables away from Basketball Hall of Fame star Ray Allen.
On our final night, we had a meal that I think will go down in history as one of the most luxurious places I've ever dined. It was a Mexican restaurant called Costa, where guests enjoy their meals in bungalows over a koi pond.
We swooned for every dish placed in front of us. I could write a love song about my stuffed poblano pepper.
This experience felt completely surreal - the location, the stellar service and the beautifully plated food.
Back in Boston, I headed to the newly opened Fox & the Knife, helmed by chef Karen Akunowicz. I have admired chef Karen for a long time. First, as the powerhouse leading the open kitchen at Myers + Chang in the South End (for which she won a James Beard Award), and then on television as a contestant on Bravo TV's Top Chef.
The star at Fox & the Knife is the foccacia with taleggio cheese. We loved it so much, we placed a second order!
The broccoli alla grillia Caesar is a fun (and very crunchy) spin on the classic Italian salad.
All of the pasta dishes are exceptional. We tried two that evening and I can't wait to go back and sample others.
I have been looking for an occasion to return to Fox & the Knife. That foccacia is calling me!
Over the summer, I discovered Colette Wine Bistro, the French restaurant on the ground floor of the Porter Square Hotel in Cambridge, MA. Colette has a large outdoor patio, right on Massachusetts Avenue, making it an ideal people watching spot.
The risotto was also incredible. In my original review I wrote, "The green vegetable risotto with fava beans, peas, asparagus and herbs pistou is a revelation. I felt like the food critic character in Ratatouille, who takes one bite of the vegetable dish and is immediately transported back to his happy memories."
We also enjoyed two desserts: the Nutella chocolate mousse and the eclair du jour (which was fruit-themed for the evening). The plating and presentation of both dishes was so elegant and made us feel like we were about to taste something very special.
I have already been back to Colette twice since that first visit, and I look forward to many more!
During my family's annual trip to Cape Cod in July, I finally made it to the Chatham Bars Inn, a place I have been seeing on social media for years. The grounds and waterfront are absolutely gorgeous.
We had lunch at the Veranda, a restaurant just off the lobby. We sat on a covered porch overlooking the ocean.
While enjoying the view, we noshed on super fresh salads. All of the vegetable's came from the chef's garden on the premises.
Though our family vacations in Truro on the Outer Cape, I was happy to know about the magic of Chatham Bars Inn. I will definitely be offering to meet friends there in the future.
The final accolade in the dining out category goes to the neighborhood of Venice in Los Angeles, CA. In August, I flew to California for a friend's wedding and stayed in an Airbnb in Venice. Not only was the location perfect for exploring and enjoying the beach, but we were walking distance to dozens of amazing restaurants.
Our first meal when we got off the plane was at Great White, right off the Venice Beach boardwalk. If I lived in Los Angeles, I would be here every single weekend.
I also fell in love with The Butcher's Daughter. Just look at this space!
It's also where I had the best breakfast sandwich of my life.
Venice is also where I discovered the chocolate babka croissant at The Rose.
Their savory dishes are amazing too. On that particular morning we tried the shakshuka and the huevos rancheros.
One of the evenings, we did the chef's tasting menu at The Tasting Kitchen (hence the name). The restaurant's dining room is quite memorable, because there is a tree growing in it!
Our four-course meal was stellar. With each round we couldn't believe our luck! The portions were generous and each and every dish was a home run. My favorite was the pasta course. I licked that bowl clean!
This trip reminded me how fun it is to really get to know a neighborhood. While I was there, I bought a letterpress postcard of the Venice boardwalk and I hung it in my bedroom. Looking at it every day sparks joy!
Though I just finished season three of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon and loved it, my favorite streaming discovery of 2019 was Somebody Feed Phil. The show was recommended to me by a friend and her husband. If you've never seen it before, the show follows Phil Rosenthal, the creator and executive producer of Everybody Love Raymond, as he travels the world in search of deliciousness.
Though he's well over six feet tall, traveling with Phil is a bit like traveling with a Jewish grandmother. He's picky, he's constantly noticing and commenting on the other diners, and he can't stand it when things don't go according the plan. In the episode where he flies to Paris, France, he intends to make his first stop at Angelina for its famous hot chocolate, and when he arrives, the cafe is unexpectedly closed. He gets back into the car, and shouts into the camera, "Well, now the trip is ruined!"
I absolutely love him (even when he complains!). There are three seasons available on Netflix and I really hope they make more. Revisit my original review of the show for my episode guide!
The other show I was completely addicted to this year was Dead to Me, starring Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini. Applegate plays Jen and Cardellini plays Judy, two women who meet in a grief support group. Jen has recently lost her husband. What transpires is crazy, unexpected and will keep you on the edge of your seat.
The season finale ends in a way that could easily set the show up for a second season. I really hope they continue!
It took me no time at all to decide on my favorite movie of 2019: Booksmart. Directed by Olivia Wilde and starring Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever, the story is about two best friends in their final days of high school. It's wickedly funny, endearing and has one of the best soundtracks in a movie ever.
One of the friends I saw it with said, "This was like Can't Hardly Wait and Superbad had a baby." Who could resist that?
At the beginning of this year, I made a New Year's resolution to read two books per month, 24 for the year. I'm currently on book #27 (woo!), but my favorite is the very first book I reviewed here on the blog in 2019, Becoming by Michelle Obama.
It is difficult for me to put into words how important this book is. While reading it I was impressed, inspired and felt a deep responsibility to do more. While it breaks my heart that Michelle Obama will likely never be in the public eye in the same way, she continues to sprinkle her magic all over the world, with a focus on the health and education of women and girls. If you haven't read this book yet, that should be your first 2020 resolution!
This year, I was also completely gripped by Tara Westover's memoir, Educated. Her life experience is so unique.
I was struck by her bravery in retelling the stories from her traumatic childhood and the exclusion she felt in college. She has gone on to master so much.
Lastly, Daisy Jones & The Six was a captivating read and I am elated it is already being produced as a series for Amazon!
For those who aren't familiar, the book is written by Taylor Jenkins Reid and was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick (the second most powerful book club, only behind Oprah Winfrey's). It's a work of fiction about a rock band in the 1970s, told as an oral history. It's basically like reading the best episode of VH1's Behind the Music that you could ever imagine.
I highly recommend this book as a vacation read.
There you have it! My Top 10 discoveries of 2019. I can't wait to see what 2020 brings!