On the last day of 2015, it’s time to get nostalgic about the year gone by. In this space, that means remembering all the delicious food and drink that passed my lips this year.
Looking back, I’ve come up with a little theme: 2015: The year I wrote about beer in every single Quick Bites column.
That’s not technically true, but gosh, it sure seemed like it, right?
Well, it’s no fault of my own: Rochester starts doing a thing related to eating or drinking, and I have to go try it and write about it, and this year, it was beer. So much beer.
The year of beer started with the opening of Grand Rounds Brewing Company in downtown Rochester after being transformed over just four months from its predecessor, Sontes. Head brewer Steve Finnie’s brewing prowess and Chef Alex Sjoberg’s creativity in the kitchen have been a recipe for success.
LTS Brewing Company opened later in the summer, followed by Forager Brewery when we turned the corner to a warm fall. They all joined Kinney Creek as Rochester’s expanded brewing community, and brewers and aficionados in the area would all agree it has elevated everyone’s game. And although it’s not a brewery or brewpub, Crooked Pint Ale House opened this spring as well, with a very healthy set of taps that keeps us coming back.
Back in May, the cuisine company that brought us two of Rochester’s most beloved restaurants (Chester’s and Pescara) opened their third Rochester restaurant — Terza, an Italian fine-dining experience. I raved about their authentic Italian pizza, and others cannot stop talking about their tiramisu. I’d argue they’re one of the best restaurants in Rochester right now.
Summer also brought the opening of Casablanca, an unassuming storefront in Northgate Plaza that belies an amazingly creative chef and culinary team. Youness Bojii isn’t afraid to play with flavors, to fly in a hard-to-find ingredient and serve it for two magical nights without much fanfare, and to take a lot of extra time to come chat with his guests. It’s a one-of-a-kind dining experience in Rochester.
Shortly after Casablanca, I discovered Aboba’s African Cuisine, my hands-down favorite go-to spot for quick-service slow food that tastes a bit like East Africa, a place that has my heart. Treat yourself today to their chicken shawarma or sambusas. You won’t be sorry.
This fall also saw the opening of Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, a new fast barbecue concept for Rochester. A few new ethnic restaurants opened as well, including Papaya Bay (Vietnamese) Lazeez (Middle Eastern Halal) and Royal Indian Cuisine (Indian).
Terza’s rooftop lounge, called La Vetta, opened at last in late fall and still boasts the best patio view in the city. The restaurant with the most pre-opening buzz in 2015 had to be Five West, which opened on West Circle Drive in September. They do a fine job of living up to the hype, too, with an always-great list of signature cocktails, a solid menu of high-quality fare, as well as a beautiful, heated patio and outdoor bar (that I can’t wait to check out again this summer).
2015 is definitely up there for one of the busiest years on record for this column — it was all I could do to hold on for the ride and try not to blink and miss anything. Stay tuned for next week’s column when I try to look into my crystal ball and predict Rochester’s culinary future for 2016.
What do you see on the horizon? Drop me a note and it might make it into next week’s column.