John T. Edge's Top Ten Dishes of 2013

by John T. Edge - December/January 2014

From boudin that's gone global to a Caesar that's all Florida to smoke-kissed chicken with an Alabama shimmer, these 2013 favorites from the hungriest man in the South are a serious helping of Dixie flavor—classic and contemporary

Saag Paneer Omelet
Houston, TX

At this swank Indian bakery and café, kitty-corner from an even swanker department store that always seems to display mink stoles, even in the height of summer, Anita Jaisinghani and her crew reinvent breakfast by filtering Texas ingredients through an Indian prism. Stone-ground yellow grits get a toss of cauliflower, a crumble of peanuts, squiggles of yogurt, and a confetti of cilantro. Breakfast tacos come rolled in roti and garnished with chutney. And fried egg sandwiches get built on biscuits and stacked with pebbled and spiced beef keema.

Most important, call for an omelet and you get a skillet-browned envelope of egg, stuffed with downy house-made paneer cubes and pleasantly bitter mustard greens. Served alongside a round of tandoor-fresh potato-and-carrot paratha, a breakfast like this will remind you that India, where cotton flourishes and okra is deified, is our region’s subcontinental sister.

Cortez Wedge
Village Idiot Pizzeria
Cortez, FL

Take a Caesar salad for a walk down a sandy lane, toward a buttonwood-tree-tangled bay on the Gulf Coast of Florida. By the time you reach the end of the pier, where the mullet are jumping and the codgers are fishing, you’ll have a sense of what this salad tastes like.

In the hands of pizzaiolo Joseph Yost, that salad translates as a pizza-oven-charred head of romaine, draped with slices of smoked mullet roe, drizzled with garlicky dressing, flanked by slender strips of pizza crust croutons, served on a tin pizza plate. If you are a fan of the umami funk that anchovies bring to a traditional Caesar, please know that mullet roe, smoked over buttonwood or hickory, gets you all that anchovies deliver, with a lingering taste that recalls a really good smoked Gouda.


Photo credit (from top): Sophia Malik; Dylan Baur