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D.C. Dining Experts Reminisce About Their Best Meal of 2014

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Red Hen, Iron Gate and (shocking) Rose's Luxury make the cut.

Iron Gate
Iron Gate
R. Lopez

As per tradition, we've asked a group of journalists, bloggers and friends of Eater to weigh in on the year in food. Here's what they've said so far. Next up, friends of Eater share their best meal of 2014.

Michael Birchenall, editor of Food Service Monthly: Let’s call it my best dining experience of 2014 … Casa Luca. To be the best, it had to hit many levels of joy … a dinner with my best high school friend (50-plus years) from Macon, Ga. visiting DC for a wedding), a gracious front of the house  team led by general manager TJ Monoyez and the kitchen master chef de cuisine Erin Clarke. No Trabocchis to be found, but we were in very capable hands. I ate light (with red wine) so I could talk more to Sam for the first time in 20 years. The pasta pomodoro in July is a perfectly simply wonderful dish in tomato season. Sam said his Branzino al Forno was the best seafood dish he had ever eaten. Adan Blanco’s service was impeccable (it has to be good when I make sure I ask the server’s name, first and last so I can send him a card afterwards). The end result was my best dining experience, not just my best meal.

Svetlana Legetic, Brightest Young Things founder: The humblebrag answer to this is "that one time me and my 9 friends had a six hour meal at the roof of Rose's Luxury" but it is also the correct answer. Also, big fan of anything I ate at Bombay Club, Oval Room & Mintwood, in general.

Nevin Martell, freelance food writer: A dinner at Rose's Luxury in February with my wife and two friends. We ordered the entire menu and spent three hours enjoying every bite.

Holley Simmons, Washington Post Express Dining Editor: This is a cruel question, Eater. On the casual end of the spectrum, I had a killer burger during brunch at Duke's Grocery. And I was trying hard not to turn this into a Rose's Luxury love-fest, but I can't deny that every meal there is special, from the second you walk in the door to the minute you leave saying, "That was totally worth it."

Jeff Dufour, editor of UrbanDaddy: Outside in the garden at Iron Gate.

Tom Sietsema, Washington Post food critic: Bison and pig's brain, grilled over an open fire in a no-wall "restaurant" alongside a highway outside Chiang Mai in Thailand. We ate the meats with fresh herbs and lots of onions and chilies and cold beer. No one thought I would find the remote dive, but I did.

Alicia Mazzara, DCist dining editor: I'm going to go with the chef's tasting menu at Iron Gate, a birthday present to myself. My favorite course was the squid ink pasta with caramelized bay scallops and an obscene amount of butter and Thai chilies. Also this rosemary-scented digistif wine they brought us at the end, because man did I need it at that point.

Stefanie Gans, food critic for Northern Virginia Magazine: Whether you dine out for a living, or eat out for fun, best meals (as often poetically dramatized) are about way more than the food. For the first time my dad drove down to Virginia to accompany me on a day of eating research for Northern Virginia Magazine's 50 Best Restaurants issue.

Our first meal was at Le Mediterranean Bistro in Fairfax. Quick back story: I grew up somewhat Jewish-kosher and when my dad is out of eyesight of my mom he indulges in shellfish, pork, etc. Anyway, I let my dad pick out our lunch, which consisted of snails (a first for my dad), mussels and scallops. The food was great, so classy and well done (Med Bistro really deserves more attention), and my dad's face was alight in the sheen of chazerai.

Maura Judkis, Going Out Guide: Ok, I'm sure everyone else is saying this -- and some of us were even there at the same time! -- but the Rose's Luxury rooftop was not overrated. If I had $125 to spare, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Rina Rapuano, Zagat DC: The back deck at Rose's Luxury, $125 for a top-notch all-you-can-eat experience. (We counted 17 courses when all was said and done, and then you get a take-home surprise for the next day!)

Carole Sugarman, food critic for Bethesda Magazine: Mote Marine Farmed Sturgeon with Green Tomato Marmalade, Black-Eyed Peas and Collards (at Indigenous in Sarasota, Florida)

David Nellis, "Foodie & the Beast": Red Hen, hands down!  (We shared) Tuscan chicken liver crostini, heirloom beet salad, quinoa and wheatberry salad, buratta, ricotta cavatelli, chicken fra'diavolo and ... more ... plus something red and amazing that Sebastian poured!

Rebecca Cooper, hospitality reporter for The Washington Business Journal: In D.C. it's a toss-up between a Friday night girls' dinner at Red Hen and finally getting to Little Serow. Overall, it would have to be a dinner at Marmalade in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where my family came together in December to celebrate my brother's graduation.

Michael Martinez, producer, The Kojo Nnamdi Show: I had an amazing meal at the original Thai X-ing on Florida this past September. The pumpkin curry meets the hype.

Kate Gibbs, Destination DC: Lunch at the Oval Room: Burrata with shaved vegetables; tuna sashimi with spicy tapioca; vegetable risotto; ginger chocolate ganache.

Laura Hayes, Thrillist and Dining Bisnow: A September dinner at the Restaurant at Patowmack Farm. Chef Tarver King's style is something I've never experienced before, and I'm pretty sure it's how we're meant to eat.

Jessica Sidman, food editor, Washington City Paper: A friend was lucky enough to snag a reservation at the roof garden of Rose's Luxury and invited me to join the party. And it was definitely a party. The food just flowed: oysters with rosé vinegar, pink peppercorn, and pickled shallots; a platter of crab claws with ramp vinegar and ramp aioli; grilled asparagus with fried and fresh jalapeños and pineapple; a spicy lemongrass seafood stew; and perfect parmesan and black pepper gnocchi. I believe we had 11 savory dishes and four desserts before the night was over.

Tim Carman, Washington Post food writer and The $20 Diner columnist: The first time I tasted Partisan's line of sandwiches on Nate Anda's lard-brushed, muffin-like rounds called tigelles, I knew I had met friends for life.

Eun Yang, NBC4: Fiola Mare is getting all the glory right now but I ate dinner at fiola while it was celebrating its third anniversary and every course was delicious.

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