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Best meals of the year

by Brian Clarey

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Writing about food is a sweet, sweet deal — and I’m not talking strictly about sampling desserts, though that’s a part of it.

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When a part of your job calls for regular trips to new restaurants and classic Triad favorites, well… you don’t have all that much to complain about.

My culinary experience this year was much like the last five: a widely varied path through all the best our cities and towns have to offer, and like every year, I have my favorite stops.

The biggest thing for me in 2010 was that I decided to eat more pho, the Vietnamese noodle bowls brimming with thin-sliced beef, wilted vegetables, spicy broth and fresh herbs that I have come to call “Indochine penicillin” for its salubrious properties. I wrote about it twice this year, the first time at Binh Minh (5211 W. Market St., Suite C, Greensboro; 336.851.1527) and the last just a few weeks ago at Nhu Y (3821-R High Point Road, Greensboro; 336.271.2999). Both were authentic and delicious, but for what it’s worth, the only one I’ve been back to is Nhu Y, because I needed to try the avocado drink. Totally worth it.

I always say Greensboro is blessed with more than its share of fantastic Asian restaurants, and my position was confirmed with a trip to Asiano Bistro (2618 Lawndale Drive, Greensboro; 336.288.8883; asianonc.com), where I ate the best plate of Kung Pao chicken of my life.

Over in Winston-Salem I had a fabulous caf’-style lunch with my wife at Hutch & Harris (424 W.4th St., Winston-Salem; 336.721.1336; hutchandharris.com): a SoHo-style roast beef sandwich for me and a Turkish bayaldi for the lady. This is where I encountered the second-best side dish of the year: cauliflower mash.

The best side dish of the year goes to the Iron Hen (908 Cridland Road, Greensboro; 336.617.7105; ironhen.com) though I’m torn whether to give it to the corn pudding or the Brussels sprouts hash. I also took the opportunity to eat a few good meals in High Point, the best of which was not at a sit-down restaurant but came from a catering and meals-to-go joint called Company’s Coming (2515 N. Main St., High Point ; 336.883.0612; companyscoming.net), consisting of nothing more than a couple croissants, some fabulous egg salad and perhaps the best commercial chicken salad I have ever had in my life. I hear the cookies are dynamite as well.

High Point also scored for the Dog House (668 N. Main St., High Point), for one because it’s been there so long it’s part of the lunchtime fabric of the community, for another because the hot dogs are cheap and excellent, and also because they had an old can of Billy Beer on the shelf, which just tickled me.

I’m not too proud to eat hot dogs. Burgers either, and I had a couple great ones this year, though both came from chain restaurants. Andy’s (2101-100 Pyramids Boulevard, Greensboro; 336.621.3775; andysburgers.net) was a favorite of my sons, mainly because of the frozen custard but also because I promised we’d go back and try to tackle the Big A Challenge, a 48-ounce burger big as a stack of bricks. And Five Guys (3124 Kathleen Ave. Greensboro; 336.856.2201; 3792 Creekshire Court, Winston- Salem; 336.765.0944; 3723 Robinhood Road, Winston-Salem; 336.760.2660; fiveguys.com) reaffirmed my faith in what a massproduced hamburger could be.

And the most fun I had covering the food beat all year happened in Winston-Salem, at Independence Village, where a crew of grandmas threw down for a Christmas cookie contest that was at once, delicious, hilarious and touching.

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