With all the holiday craziness going on, I hadn’t planned to post anything until at least next week. But after pointing out the Brown Rice Bowl “Baja Style” from Lady Marmalade twice today, I thought I’d do a round up of my favourite dishes that I’d eaten this year last year. While there’s seemingly no connection between the two thoughts, the Baja bowl is something I order every time I go Lady Maramalade, and it’s a dish I usually regret not ordering if I opt for something else. It got me thinking of other mainstay dishes like that and then the thought got expanded to encompass all the dishes that I’ve had a mini-epiphany over.

So, here are my picks, in no particular order. Links go to existing blog-posts, or if I haven’t written it up, to the restaurant’s site if they have one.

Brown Rice Bowl, “Baja Style” Topped with black beans, aged white cheddar, pico de gallo salsa, avocado, sour cream, scallions, & cilantro. (Lady Marmalade, Toronto)

Waffles sided with maple syrup and poached pears. I knew these plate-sized waffles were good when my enjoyment still held up, even to the last bite. (Aunties & Uncles, Toronto)

Gnocchi, shellfish stew, white wine. Perfectly cooked gnocchi in a refined chowder. The creamy and hint-of-sweet stew, combined with the delicate taste of clams and various shellfish, was sublime. This, along with the rest of our meal, prompted us to return the very next day for lunch. (Le Club Chasse Et Pêche, Montreal)

BC Spot prawns with a hot sauce and toasted corn nuts. Super tasty. Sweet and tender in-season shrimp kicked up with a creamy-and-spicy sauce. So good, this was re-ordered later that night as a dessert. (The Black Hoof, Toronto)

Gazpacho Refreshingly good. With a significant body (thanks to the bread crumbs) to this cold soup, the sweet notes of tomato and fresh vegetables have a great base to work with. Loved the crunch of the peppers/onion. Almost ordered another for dessert. (Txori, Seattle)

Takowasabi. Cooked octopus with chopped wasabi stem and vegetables. To be wrapped in nori. Oh, how I loved this dish. Crunchy bits of octopus with that wasabi-hot punch and sweet-and-vinegar notes dancing all around it. (Guu Izakaya, Toronto)

Butter-poached Lobster on a golden beet reduction with leeks. Decorated with a potato-chip flower. Perfectly cooked lobster that melted in my mouth. And the beet reduction was so very tasty that I all but licked the plate. (Private dinner)

Tacone. Grilled salmon, cilantro-spiked salsa, chipotle crema and coleslaw, rolled into a white-flour tortilla cone. This delicious take on a fish taco combines the crunch of tangy slaw mixed with a subtle chipotle spice and tender chunks of fresh salmon. (Go Fish, Vancouver)

Melton Mowbray Pork Pie. Had this for lunch with a side of pickled beets and slaw. Nice chunks of porky goodness and this lovely thin layer of jelly lining the interior pie shell. So good that I bought two to take home.  (High Street Fish & Chips, Toronto)

Creamy tomato double-smoked bacon soup. Really tasty and a thick body. Tomato taste really pops through and the bacon – well, it’s bacon. Very tasty and satisfying. (Ceili Cottage, Toronto)

Jimmy Screech. I’m fond of breakfast foods and this is no exception. A fried egg in a piece of buttery and salty toast, part of a sandwich of ham and cheese. (Morning Glory, Toronto)

Tarte d’Erable with this awesome pie crust. I love maple syrup and this is a whole pie of it. I was so full that at one point, I thought there was no way I could finish this (it’s for two, you know!). However the wall that I had hit somehow got moved and I was able to continue on and finish every last bite. So good. (Au Pied Du Cochon)

Marrow and toast. Hot and meltingly good marrow spread on toast – give it a pinch of Maldon sea-salt and it’s heaven. (Hoof Café/The Black Hoof, Toronto)

Jumbo Inari are fat pockets of rice and onion in a slightly sweet pocket of tofu. Even knowing I can’t finish this with a bowl of noodles, I’ll order it anyway. (Manpuku, Toronto)

Pumpkin caramel cake is not the neatest dessert to eat, but the mix of cream-cheese frosting and a pool of caramel on top make it a worthwhile mess. (Flaky Tart, Toronto)

Gruyère and onion pastry. Sweet. Savoury. Flaky. Toasty. With onions. AND Gruyère. Totally had me at “hello” or whatever the pasty equivalent is. (Café Besalu, Seattle)

Gnocchi with Crab in an awesome uni sauce. Creamy and luscious, a really delectable dish.  (Elemental @ The Gasworks, Seattle)

Special bowl. Now, one usually doesn’t order anything with the word “special” in the name at a restaurant. However, Pho is an exception. Amazing broth that makes you want to drink it all up. (Pho Linh, Toronto)

Chacuterie plate. Really, it’s all about that chicken pate, all swirly up in front. Really great flavour and texture. While this resto is no more, at least you can still buy it from Gilead. (JKWB, Toronto)

Double Baked Almond croissant. Nutty, flaky, and really good. Love those toasty notes. The almond filling is just right – not too much, nor too wet. (Thomas Haas, Vancouver)

Poached Dutch white asparagus with local ramps. I cannot tell you how delicious this was. Perfect texture, lovely asparagus flavour with the hint of ramps. And while it was done simply, it displayed the combination of ingredients to their best. Probably my favourite dish of the year. It’s a toss up between this and the gnocchi from Montreal. Alas, this old incarnation of Splendido is no more. (Splendido, Toronto)

And that’s it. Apparently, I’ve had 21 really notable dishes this past year – either mainstay dishes or amazing stand-outs. So, what’s your countdown like for outstanding dishes of 2009?