It goes without saying that the best meals of the year aren't just about what was eaten. That's important, no doubt. But great food doesn't equal a great meal.
What makes a meal is having good food, good atmosphere, good service plus the presence of best sort of company. People you adore. A great meal happens when everyone at the table is jazzed to be sitting and breaking bread with everyone else at the table. I just said jazzed! But you get the idea.
So, because so much of my life is lived in restaurants, when I reflect back on the year, it's the meals I think of first. The sushi dinner at Kappo Tamura with my daughter—the first time she'd ever sat at a grown-up sushi bar. The dinner with close friends at LloydMartin, when three of us shed tears over a deep loss and stayed until the place closed down. A meal at Cafe Juanita that was absolutely effortless—every possible need was taken care of, every bite of food was so delicious.
My birthday dinner at Bar del Corso, when my children behaved for almost two entire hours (miraculous!), and hello! The pizza (shown above) was about perfect, the side dishes—braised pork and cranberry beans, a nicely bitter winter salad—even better. A solo meal at the bar in Portland at Woodsman Tavern—the chicken livers!—and an epic night of eating a few months prior, when friends and I had three successive dinners (also in Portland) over the course of six hours. The perfectly fresh, perfectly shucked oysters eaten at Elliott's for birthdays and anniversaries, the perfect croissant that Ines Patisserie owner Nohra Belaid gave my daughter when she correctly pronounced "cwah-sannt."
I could go on, but we might be here a while. Instead, my fellow Seattle mag editors share their Best Meals of 2012 below. Cheers to many more in the New Year!
Brangien Davis, arts & culture editor:
My best meal of 2012 was at Four Swallows on Bainbridge Island, an old-school place in the very best of ways—meaning they've been doing this long enough to know how to get the dining experience exactly right. We were there in May for my mother's birthday, and from the moment our extremely large party was ushered in, we knew we were in good hands. Grown up hands. Totally pro hands. This is not a hip place, or a place that's doing anything especially edgy or new, but they do what they do—delicious food and impeccable service—so well. I don't even remember what I ate (though I remember savoring every bite), but I still count it as my best meal of 2012 because it just felt so good to be in the care of the restaurant, with waiters that were nice but not obsequious, knowledgeable without being know-it-alls and never hovering but always magically right there when we needed another bottle of wine. I certainly went to cooler/younger/riskier restaurants last year, but Four Swallows is the one that stands out as the most refreshing and festive.
Bond Huberman, online editor:
This summer I went with a group of girlfriends to vegetarian and uber-organic Sage Cafe (now Plum Cafe) on 15th in Capitol Hill. I was rolling my eyes at the unblinking hippy earnestness of the place until I tasted the food. The Purple Haze eggplant sandwich was so delicious and satisfying, I started seriously reconsidering why I even bother eating meat. Cozied round a too-small table with the friendly manager practically joining right in with us, I felt like we were eating in a friend's kitchen. The food was plenty memorable, but afterwards, a long stroll with my friends through Cap Hill in that gorgeous summertime golden hour is probably what made the memory really stick.
Lisa Wogan, managing editor:
Roast beef, raw-milk Swiss cheese, pickled red onion, rosemary horseradish aioli + arugula sandwich on whole grain bread at Homegrown in Melrose Market. I said, "this is a perfect sandwich" after every bite. No exaggeration.
Ali Brownrigg, style editor:
Finest meal? Willows Inn. Happiest meal? Every time I eat Ma'Ono fried chicken. Best brekkie? Salvadorean Bakery. Most surprisingly delish? Chickpea fries at Company in White Center. Best place to take the kids and still feel cool? Proletariat Pizza in White Center.