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Brunt: Top Ten Foods I’ve Eaten This Year

It’s been a heck of a food year for me. I visited and reviewed fifty-two restaurants for the newspaper I work for, plus a handful of others for my magazine friends. I have also been cooking a lot, still “cooking and coping,” the grand idea that Malcolm White and Carole Puckett came up with for a Facebook page. Being in the kitchen is therapeutic for me, and I enjoy feeding others, whether they be friends or just a hungry person I bump into. 

Christmas Eve, I am making jambalaya, putting it to-go cups, and handing it out to people walking down the street that look hungry. I hope you do what you can for the thousands of people in this state that are food insecure. It is dreadful to think that 20% of Mississippians do not know where their next meal is coming from. Please do your part.

Let me share with you the Top 10 things I have eaten this year. Some were in restaurants, and some came from my kitchen. Some are pretty sophisticated, and others simple, and often throwbacks to my childhood. Ready?

The best thing I had to eat all year, hands down, is the bouillabaisse at the Thorney Oyster in Bay St. Louis. It is a hard-to-find dish, but when done right it is amazing.

Perhaps the number two best thing I had this year is the Italian-style bruschetta I made. Bruschetta is obviously Italian, but by saying in “Italian-style,” I mean actually grilled over a fire, not in a toaster oven. I made it with a really good bread from Le Bakery, an exceptional unfiltered olive oil from Rouses, prosciutto de Parma, and some homemade pear jam.

That’s the top two. The rest are not ranked in order, but all were exceptionally good and noteworthy.

I made butter several times this year, and what a difference homemade makes. Add a splash of buttermilk to a quart of heavy cream. Let it sit out overnight, then put it not the blended. 3-4 minutes later, and there you have it.

I was given a dozen eggs by my friend Sophia, and they were the best I ever had. Her chickens are her pets and much-loved. Their quality of life makes a huge difference.

Green pasta, a homemade Bolognese, and lots of parmesan is so simple and so profoundly rich and comforting. I make it often.

I eat a lot of ramen noodles, being a bachelor and coking for myself can sometimes be a challenge. I made homemade meatballs with ramen and a good olive oil, and it was very tasty indeed.

When feeling blue, and lots of this year was blue for a lot of us, a bologna sandwich and a glass of milk were just right.

I used my smokehouse several times this year, including the best ribs I have ever made. Got to get back to that soon!

A high note of the summer is always when the first tomatoes are ready and I can make a tomato sandwich, with lots of mayo and the tomato is still warm from the sun. Stunning.

Lastly, I have just got to mention the cheeseburger I had a Val’s in Ocean Springs. I love a good burger and Val’s are fantastic.

It’s been a tough year in many ways, but it is always important to count your blessings, and many of my blessings have arrived on a plate. My food world is rich and satisfying, to be sure, and I hope a few of my food ideas just might enrich yours as well.

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Written by Julian Brunt

Julian Brunt is a food and travel writer that has been writing about the food culture of the Deep South for over a decade. He is the eleventh generation of his family to live in the South, grew up in Europe, traveled extensively for the first fifteen years after graduating from the University of Maryland, University College, Heidelberg, Germany. Today, he's a contributor for multiple publications, including Our Mississippi Home. He's also appeared on Gordon Ramsay's television show, "To Hell and Back in 24 Hours."

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