We started and finished our list of 100 Favorite Dishes with Denver originals: a crispy chile relleno from La Fiesta at number 100 and a plate of bison ribs from the Fort at number 1. In between, we sampled bites of great food everywhere from Acorn to Z Cuisine. Here are a few of our favorite food photos from the past year. For more photos, see our complete slideshow of 100 Favorite Dishes from 2015.
No. 46: Sesame pockets at Golden Plate II
9880 West Girton Drive, Lakewood
"Known as shaobing in China, from the outside these sesame pockets resemble miniature pita bread coated in sesame seeds. But the resemblance ends there; Golden Plate's shaobing are moist and layered on the inside like a slightly doughy version of a croissant, while the exterior is crisp and nutty."
No. 48: Cabeza Tacos at Taqueria El Trompito
10021 East Hampden Avenue
"The taco de cabeza bursts with so much meaty goodness you'll forget about everything else on the menu. Slow cooked until the meat almost melts with a melange of chiles and spices (make sure you check for stray bay leaves before your first bite), the cabeza (mostly cheek meat) is dark, rich and unctuous with fat and collagen. The bright orange salsa made from chiles de arbol is a better accompaniment, with enough heat and roasty flavor to stand up to the beef. You'll thank your taquero for doubling up the tortillas — the juices of the cabeza soak right through the first layer."
No. 5: Fall Squash Carpaccio at the Squeaky Bean
1500 Wynkoop Street
"A question might pop into your head when you read the description for the Squeaky Bean's fall squash carpaccio: 'I don't even know what a musquee de provence is, and you want me to eat it raw?' You can rest easy though, because chef Chris MacGillivray isn't carving up some weird semi-aquatic mammal for daring diners. Instead, he relies on his restaurant's own farmland to provide produce that he treats with the same respect and creativity as any protein. In this case, the musquee is simply a pumpkin — a big, lumpy pumpkin of French heritage that your server will be happy to point out for you, since plenty of the hefty gourds currently sit on counter tops and shelves around the Bean's eclectically decorated dining room."
No. 12: Octopus Takoyaki at Sakana Sushi & Ramen
7520 Sheridan Boulevard, Arvada
"The little golden spheres called takoyaki rest in a bowl against a single green leaf of lettuce, topped with stripes of sweet, dark sauce and Japanese mayonnaise. The server warns us that they're piping hot inside and to wait a few minutes before biting into one. But the subtle aroma of of the sea, combined with the sweetness and tang of the sauces, makes waiting a difficult proposition. And knowing that inside each perfectly smooth and crisp ball is a trove of tender, minced octopus makes diving in early far outweigh the risk of a burned tongue."
No. 37: Lao Sausage at the Asian Cajun
2400 West Alameda Avenue
"The sausage itself is a Laotian preparation, with fatty pork hit with a big dose of lemongrass and a few other herbs and spices that perfume the air as the wooden board hits the table. Shards of fried scallion top the sausage with crunchy texture while caramelized onions sizzle against the hot surface of the pan. A side of nuoc mam for dipping adds heat, sweetness and funk from minced chiles and fish sauce."
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No. 38: Breakfast Congee at Onefold
1420 East 18th Avenue
"Our favorite for a warming breakfast or filling lunch is the ham-and-egg congee, a savory rice porridge that Onefold cooks with chicken or turkey stock to up the umami. It's a simple dish with only a few ingredients, but the mild congee base acts as a springboard for the other flavors. A poached egg lurks just at the surface with a payload of creamy yolk waiting to be spilled out with the jab of a spoon; fried ham adds no-nonsense country-kitchen appeal."
No. 41: Shredded Bison with Bannock Bread at Tocabe
8181 East Arapahoe Road, Greenwood Village
"Like the best fast-casual joints, Tocabe offers a number of toppings with which to adorn your bison, but we recommend restraint: A little chile verde to brighten the dish and some hominy salsa for added texture are all that's needed, above and beyond the base of Tocabe's creamy stewed beans. Of the three choices (pinto, black or chili beans), we recommend the pinto to go with the bison so as not to overwhelm the flavor of the shredded meat. If you find yourself in the south Denver suburbs, the bannock bread is worth the trip and is grilled to order so that it's steamy, fresh and imbued with smoky flavor from fire. But we get it; that fry bread is almost impossible to pass up too."