Behold the beginning of our annual 100 Favorite Dishes countdown! Every day until the publication of our fantabulous Best Of Issue, we'll list our favorite meals this year in descending order. Enjoy, pass it on, and tune in daily!
I still remember the first panna cotta I ever ate. I was a 21-year-old college student at Chapter One on the recommendation of a girl who I thought was cute. It was the Milk and Cereal panna cotta that's sadly (in a nostalgia kind of way) no longer on the menu, and it was amazing.
It was rich and yielding like flan, which I love, but it felt airy, more upscale. Unfortunately, following a few awkward dates and late night texts, every panna cotta I've had has been hit or miss. Wonderful or bland to the point that it's really just milk-colored jello.
But I'm happy to say that the Buttermilk Panna Cotta at Lola Gaspar, one of just two desserts that the restaurant serves, is one of the wonderful ones, even without the help of a little bit of puppy love.
The custard, served inside one of those jars with a latched top that I don't know the actual name of, is rich, with a slight sweetness that's calming but unobtrusive. On top is a coulis (the kind of fruit rotates) with some fruit bits and tajin for a little salty, sweet, slightly spicy kick.
The magic, though, happens when you eat everything together, plunging your spoon through the thin sauce and plump custard to the very bottom of the jar. You first taste is the salty tartness of the tajin and fruit and for a millisecond you pucker, until the relentlessly comforting richness of the buttermilk custard cuts in, relieving you of your discomfort and leaving you with something simple and sweet to remember. It's almost like I'm writing about love. Or maybe there's a food-as-sex metaphor in there somewhere?
Anyway, it's good so go eat it.
71. Hummus at Mick's Karma Bar
72. Savory Baked Goat Cheese Bread Pudding at Eat Chow
73. Sicilian Style Pepperoni Pizza at Perry's Pizza N Italian Restaurant
74. Kabocha Honey Nuts at Kabuki
75. Smashed Potatoes at Standing O
76. Dim Sum at Seafood Cove #2
77. Loco Moco at Bread Crumb Ohana Cafe
78. Bratwurst at Barley Forge
79. Beef Noodle Soup at (Wafting Fragrance) Noodle House
80. Taco de Nopal at Urban Cactus
81. Fried Chicken at Crazy Chi-Mac
82. Mole Tots at Amor y Tacos
83. Khao Soi at S.T. Noodle Bar
84. Chili Cone Queso at Cozy Cone Motel
85. Crispy Smelt at Big Catch Seafood
86. Teriyaki Chicken Plate at California Plate
87. Combo Plate at MasalaCraft
88. Cornbread Waffle N Chicken at Mrs. Bea's
89. Everything at Crispy Town
90. Kurobuta Pork Belly Bánh Mì at Mendocino Farms
91. Tostilocos at Tortas y Biónicos "Nice"
92. Milanesa at Delicias Peruanas
93. Super Nachos at Kelly's Korner Tavern
94. Tortas at Sliced and Diced Eatery
95. Seasonal Dumplings at Coconut Rabbit
96. Burrito de Birria de Res from Burritos La Palma
97. Bò Kho at Song Long Restaurant
98. Pancake Sandwich at Willowick Golf Course
99. Tahdig at Tanor Fresh Mediterranean Grill
100. Quatro Formaggi Panini at Old Vine Cafe