1: Cured Meats from Red Table Meat Co.

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Photo courtesy of Red Table Meat Co. Facebook Page

By their very nature, foodstuffs are fleeting. And now more than ever, to keep up with fads, trends, and the times, chefs and food purveyors are forced to be ever faster and ever forward-moving to secure their places in the hearts and stomachs of camera-phone-toting Yelp reporters.

In the face of all this, it takes great intellect, robust craftsmanship, and strength of will to take the slow food path, to spend literally years just getting something right and getting it into the marketplace, with the hopes that it will spend decades, and maybe longer, there. For all of this, not to mention the flavor, Red Table's triumph of true culinary artistry gets top billing for our favorite dish of the year.

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2: Soup in Soup at Travail


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2: Soup in Soup at Travail

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Mecca Bos

Like function following form, sometimes tasting menu dishes get lost in the shuffle of innovation. In an effort to impress, sometimes one element or another falters. It's technically tasty, but simple and dull, or it's fun, but the technique doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

On a recent chef's tasting menu at Travail, one dish not only sailed to the top of our list for that evening, but held up as one of the very finest of the year.

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3: The Pig and Apple at Haute Dish


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3: The Pig and Apple at Haute Dish

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Alma Guzman

Few things are more quintessentially Midwestern than a pork and apple dinner in autumn. With swirls of orange and gold leaves outside and the smell of wood fire and the rush to soak it all in before winter hits, we sit down to a full-belly meal rich with harvest flavors.

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4: Scallop Crudo at Spoon and Stable


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4: Scallop Crudo at Spoon and Stable

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E. Katie Holm
Spoon and Stable shows they're masters of the mollusk

For weeks -- no, months -- before it opened, long before they started serving vigorously-shaken cocktails, birthday cotton candy, bone marrow dumplings, and ingenious petit fours, Gavin Kaysen's Spoon and Stable had some pretty serious expectations to live up to.

Despite admirable efforts to communicate that, no, this restaurant wouldn't be Cafe Boulud 2.0 or a Midwestern version of French Laundry, diners seemed to believe that they'd be getting food and flavors and ingredients they'd never dreamed of, let alone encountered at their grandmother's dinner table. But Kaysen's inspiration was clearly coming from a place much closer to home.

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5: Heyday's Chicken Liver Mousse Tart

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5: Heyday's Chicken Liver Mousse Tart

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Courtesy of Heyday

Chicken. Liver. Mousse. Tart.

These are not words that incite riotous uproar. These are not words that cause customers to organize themselves into a single file line and wait hungrily for several hours. These are not words that dinner-goers quote to make non-dinner-goers jealous of the meal they missed. These are words that, in fact, should live very far apart. But in the hands of Jim Christiansen, recently nominated one of the top ten chefs in the country by Food and Wine Magazine, these words become pure poetry.

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6: Brasserie Zentral's chicken dinner


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6: Brasserie Zentral's Whole Roasted Chicken Meal

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Photo courtesy of Brasserie Zentral

A family-style meal can sometimes imply casual food made with love but also made simple and messy. So kudos to Brasserie Zentral for making a family dinner that not only satisfies urges to truly break bread together, but also one that comes off as white-tablecloth fine.

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Brasserie Zentral's new spin on Old World cuisine


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7: Hola Arepa's Beef & Plantain Arepa

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Junita Bognanni

What happens when a spirited local food truck makes the leap to a brick-and-mortar restaurant? In Hola Arepa's case: all good things.

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8. Octopus at Borough


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8: Octopus at Borough

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It's a head-scratcher when a restaurant's signature dish is the octopus appetizer. Usually, a signature dish is a bit more approachable, a go-to item that's palatable to a wide audience. Having octopus as a go-to is sort of like having a Ferrari as your winter car.

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9: Tennessee Hot Fried Chicken at Revival


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9: Tennessee Hot Fried Chicken at Revival

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Mecca Bos 

It's not just the chicken that has Minneapolis gaga over Revival. A good fried chicken joint represents a certain civic sophistication; it means we live in a place where we can all put our differences aside for the time it takes to eat lunch, and dig into the sort of food that soothes the soul. Eat it with your hands, get a little messy, and be satiated with some down-home food. Cuisine, take your fancy hat off and have a seat, you can join everybody for dinner, just don't be putting on any airs.

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10: Duck Confit with Magical Fruit at Workshop

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10: Duck Confit with Magical Fruit at Workshop

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Alma Guzman
Beans, beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat...the more you eat

Choice of words, be they economical or spare, is tricky business when it comes to restaurant menus. Some places give you an overload of descriptive language and then deliver a basic plate of blah. Others do the opposite and present elaborate food with multiple components, swipes of sauces, dollops of roe, all crowned with the tiniest micro herbs, but simply list the dish as "potato."

Notorious chef Stewart Woodman decided to go somewhat whimsical when designing the menu for Workshop, an experimental concept that opened on the main level of Union Restaurant & Rooftop this past fall. This resulted in desserts called "This Shit is B-A-N-A-N-A-S," beet rinds in the starters section, and a truly memorable entree: Duck confit with magical fruit.

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Stewart Woodman looks to win back fans at Workshop


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