Our First Ever Best Of List - Stella Nonna's Best of 2016

Yes, we’re doing it, jumping on the long-running “best of” bandwagon and have put together a kind of random, totally-not-definitive or complete list of favorites from 2016. Because let’s face it, 2016 was full of a lot of stuff that won’t go down as favorites for many of us, ever. But there were some amazing things that happened during the year, including simple things like regular meals and coffees spent with friends and family, walks in the sunshine, new marriages, and landmark anniversaries and birthdays – all things that give us hope and remind us how lucky we are to live where we live and get to share our lives with such fabulous people at home and at the restaurant. So without further ado, here is our little list of 2016 favorites:
Event: Mitch and Tim’s wedding, of course. It was a fantastic day celebrating the union of these two special men and all the people who love and support them. Starting with a beautiful church ceremony at St. Paul’s Lutheran followed by cake and champagne followed by dinner and dancing the night away, it was an unforgettable day.
Favorite short film about food: You guys! We love collard greens so imagine how excited we were to find a short film about collard greens – their cultural importance, how to prepare them, all things collard greens – and it’s a good film! Like really goodDo yourself a favor and go watch The Culture of Collards asap! . It even won a Saveur Best Of Award. Which brings us to our next favorite, a list of Best Ofs.
Best Best of 2016 list: Saveur Blog ’16 Awards. Yes, there are a lot of great blogs to check out, so many beautiful photos, super weird things like an Instagram account all about a woman smashing her face into bread, but what we love the most about this list are the non-blog awards like the list of food and culture essays – read all of them! – and the list best food videos. Also, we discovered this hilarious blog via the Saveur ’16 Awards, so bonus points!
Favorite go-to when we’ve got no time to cook or just need a pizza fixArtichoke Basille Pizza. We had our first slices in New York and when they opened a location in Berkeley, we were pretty excited. We love a simple slice of their Margarita or when we’re feeling (kind of) decadent the almost-coma-inducing namesake artichoke pizza topped with artichoke hearts, spinach, cream sauce, mozzarella and Pecorino Romano (you’ve gotta try it, but we suggest sharing).
Made-our-restaurant-life-easier tool: sparkling water, on tap. I mean, come on! Professional systems like Natura’s pass local tap water through a carbon filter, removing bad stuff like rust and chlorine, then it gets disinfected to kill 99% of the nasties that can make people sick and then finally carbonates it. And then it’s cold and ready to serve to all our customers. It’s fantastic. And if you want to go above and beyond your SodaStream for sparkling water at home, there are now home systems, too! We definitely want one of these! Some of the choices include the Sparkling Water, Powered by AGA, the the Zip Chilltap™ Sparkling tap, and the GROHE Blue®.
Coffee: There are so many amazing coffees to choose from in the Bay Area, and we’re fans of a lot of them, but we’re dedicated to ourRuby’s Roast. We’ve known owners Debbie and Sherry for many years and we love them as people but for the restaurant (and our cups at home) the most important thing is having fabulous tasting coffee and Ruby’s Roast delivers. We also love that they’re a fully woman-owned, local Berkeley business that we can support. You can, too, by bringing their coffee home. You can order it from their online store or pick some up at the Berkeley Bowl, Saul’s Deli and other great local retailers.

Worth-the-bridge-trip patisserie: They’ve gotten a fair bit of hype and it’s well worth it, as is the trip across the bridge. The pastries atCraftsman and Wolves are fabulous and the interior design of each of their outposts is stellar. They’re really beautiful and their beauty matches the taste. Their Valrhona Chocolate Chocolate Croissant with churro sugar is a revelation and their kouign amann is to die for. If you haven’t yet had a kouign amann and love buttery, caramel-y layers of deliciousness you must get one forthwith. And the one from Craftsman and Wolves is a great introduction.  We recently found out one of our most dedicated foodie friends, who has spent a lot of time in France over the years, has never tasted one! What?! We think she should stop whatever she’s doing and get herself to CAW. We’ll admit that we’ve kind of made pigs of ourselves on our visits because we can’t choose just one thing, but there are so many more things we want to try. The Rebel Within, which is homemade sausage, scallion muffin, and slow cooked egg. How delicious does that sound? Or yuzu almond, smoked butter, or shoyu caramels? Intriguing, right

Favorite have-an-easy-morning bakery: Obviously we’re big fans of pastry if the previous entry is anything to go by. But really, ho doesn’t love well-made croissants and other deliciousness from puff pastry? When we get a chance for a nice, leisurely walk on a beautiful morning off we love the College Avenue/Clairmont neighborhood in Berkeley and we especially love to grab some excellent pastries to take along on our rambles from Fournée, tucked just across from the Berkeley Tennis Club and the Clairmont Hotel on Domingo Avenue. Their morning buns (mmm, puff pastry and cinnamon sugar), savory ham and manchego croissant, and classic pain au chocolat are some of our favorites. They also make pretty tasty breads and desserts.

Award for a lifetime of great music and poetry: We couldn’t do a best-of list without mentioning the Nobel Prize for Literature being awarded to Bob Dylan. Sarah’s love for Dylan’s work is legendary and we love that he was awarded the Nobel and that Dylan acknowledged it (after a few days) in his typical, odd, somewhat gruff, not-too-fond-of-publicity kind of way. Have you listened to his music recently? Or read the liner notes to Highway 61 Revisited? Check them out, they’re worth a read even without listening to the album. But we suggest sitting down with your favorite libation and listening the album from beginning to end while reading the liner notes. It’s an experience we all should have. Seriously.

So that's our list. We had fun making it, even if it's missing about another 40-100 things and places but we've gotta get back in the kitchen to make more food for all of you amazing people. Please come visit us and check out our specials and let us know some of your favorite things from 2016. It'll make you happy. Just like this video will make you laugh.

Tabitha Steager

Tabitha Steager Communications, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia v8k2p7