Neil's favorite places to eat, 2013 edition 

click to enlarge Delicia - MARK A. LEE
  • Delicia
  • Mark A. Lee

It's hard to pick a favorite from Delicia's menu, which is why repeat visits are a must if you are to truly appreciate its richness and diversity. And while some dishes may deliver a bit of heat, this isn't Man V Food territory: here the spicing, as in great Indian cuisine, delivers depth and complexity, not necessarily sweat and tears. If forced to choose a handful of dishes, I would recommend the truly otherworldly duck sopes, little puffy masa flour cups piled high with subtly spicy duck confit, tempered with a dollop of cooling lime-flavored cream. The aforementioned mofongo is a must for lovers of all things Caribbean, as is the Peruvian Ceviche, a wonderfully fresh and vibrant version of a classic, so lively and light that you can almost hear waves crashing.

10-01 Food & Drink
If you really want to create a lasting memory, one you can pass on to your grandchildren, then you have to try the fried chicken at 10-01 Food & Drink. On paper, it might not look like much; no description, not hyperbolic assertions that this might be the best fried chicken you've ever eaten. But it is far and away the greatest I can remember, and from now on every time I have a taste for fried chicken, this is the one I will be returning to. As for how it's prepared, all we can divulge here is that it's brined first. Then the magic begins. To learn more, you'll just have to visit the restaurant yourself.

click to enlarge Bluebeard - MARK A. LEE
  • Bluebeard
  • Mark A. Lee

Favorites on Bluebeard's constantly changing menu might include a delightful trio of spreads- whipped lardo, anchovy butter and roasted garlic oil, served with Amelia's bread, or perhaps some grilled baby octopus with seasonal garnish, or a slow-cooked ragout served with tender pappardelle. Eschewing the usual antipasti, primi, pasta, secondi format traditionally offered in Italian restaurants, Bluebeard's menu offers a variety of dishes, from small individual appetizer portions to large shareable plates. Sharing is expected here, so don't feel abashed about reaching over the table to grab a forkful of crunchy crosnes or a chunk of pig and fig paté.

Relying heavily on locally-sourced ingredients from by now familiar family farms and less-familiar items by way of an on-staff gleaner, Cerulean delivers cutting-edge cuisine in a suitably austere setting. Preparations often emphasize sweet-savory contrasts with spice or herb highlights. It's a winning approach, especially when you're dealing with heftier fall dishes such as pork, duck, carrots, squash and Brussels sprouts. I'm a big fan of the lunch menu. Lunch is, after all, the best meal of the day when done properly, and few do it better in this town than Cerulean. Heavy on protein and vegetation with no butter or cream and little fat, lunches are designed to leave the diner satisfied, but not full or tired.

Black Market
Long-braised meats take front and center at Black Market, frequently the cuts of meat many might leave behind at the butcher's shop in favor of something higher on the beast. The Pickled Plate is a favorite, capturing the essence of the season, from spring ramps to fall beets, but almost always with a vinegary hard-boiled egg and a generous dollop of loose and sweetly spicy peanut butter, a Thai influence, which seems to go perfectly with almost anything acetic.

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