Signature Dish: Looking back at the best meals of 2015

Dec 28, 2015

By MATT KRUEGER, The Daily News


No shortage of good food exists in the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming region. I have spent much of 2015 sampling the best meals restaurants have to offer through the Signature Dish column. I have even learned some culinary tips from the chefs and restaurant owners.


Of the nearly 30 dishes I have sampled, there were only two I wouldn’t eat again. But I’m not going to say which ones they were. I will, however, honor those I thought were the best.


Here are the five favorite dishes I tried this year in chronological order:


D&R Depot (Chicken Pot Pie)


I hit a home run with my first column. The chicken pot pie at D&R Depot — 63 Lake St., Le Roy — is simple comfort food, but delicious. There is a very good reason why busloads of people show up at the restaurant for this dish.


What I wrote: D&R’s pot pie is a bit deconstructed. Technically, it’s not a pie at all. More like a stew, the filling comes in a bowl with a 4-inch wide pie crust resting on top. That trick, which leaves the crust light, flaky and crispy, started day one. The filling contains chunks of hand-pulled, roasted chicken, and because it doesn’t sit around all day, the chicken doesn’t shred. The peas and carrots remain crisp. The dish comes with a side of homemade cranberry sauce that is sweet and tangy, providing a nice balance with the savory pot pie.


Bourbon & Burger (Kentucky Bourbon Co. Burger)


I ate a lot of burgers this year, but the Kentucky Bourbon Co. Burger at Bourbon & Burger — 9 Jackson St., Batavia — was my favorite. You just can’t go wrong with bacon, onion rings, cheese and a wonderful bourbon sauce on a burger.


What I wrote: The Kentucky burger gets topped with crisp bacon, crispier onion rings, lettuce, tomato, pepperjack cheese and a sweet-and-tangy bourbon sauce. Bourbon sauce, for those who don’t know, usually has only four ingredients: egg yolks, butter, sugar, and, of course, high-quality bourbon.


Every burger is cooked on a flat top grill. A slight difference in the cooking method is that Bourbon & Burger doesn’t offer its creations as rare, medium or well done. It’s “pink” or “no pink.”


Hole in the Wall (Brownie Sundae)


This was the only dessert I tried this year, but it easily stood out. The brownie sundae at Hole in the Wall — 7056 Standpipe Rd., Perry — is delicate, decadent and delightful.


What I wrote: The sundae is beautifully plated with the lid underneath the jar to catch any melted ice cream that runs down the sides, a cup of hot fudge, and a long spoon filled with homemade whipped cream and topped with a chocolate garnish. The sundae also gets topped with a sage blossom and a mint sprig that were picked from the restaurant’s garden.


So how does one eat the dessert? Well, there are two schools of thought on that. You can either dump everything onto the plate and mix it together, or dig in with the long spoon and eat it right from the jar.


Zambistro (Lobster Pasta)


A very rich, sophisticated dish, the lobster pasta at Zambistro — 408 Main St., Medina — is a reason to drive to the Orleans County eatery. It is a seafood lover’s dream.


What I wrote: The sauce, which could stand on its own as a lobster bisque, is the star of the dish. (Chef Michael) Zambito begins with a lobster stock and adds some tomato with cream to thicken it. It’s great on the pasta or sopped up with a slice of fresh bread that comes with the meal. Of course, the dish is called lobster pasta, so the lobster must be front and center. It is. Zambito uses claw and knuckle meat, and you’re likely to find an entire claw on your plate.


O’Lacy’s Irish Pub (Reuben Sandwich)


The menu at O’Lacy’s Irish Pub — 5 School St., Batavia — says the reuben sandwich is “The best in town.” It would be difficult to argue that. It’s big flavor is matched by its popularlity.


What I wrote: O’Lacy’s serves a classic Reuben with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and Thousand Island dressing on rye bread. It also serves a turkey variation — sometimes called a Rachel — and a Trinity Reuben with corned beef, turkey and pastrami. What makes a good Reuben is the way the ingredients meld together. The saltiness of the corned beef mixes well with the sweetness of the Thousand Island dressing and the sourness of the sauerkraut.