I normally start the list in January and add to it every time I eat something that makes my heart skip a beat. There have been years when I've had to cut from the list because there were just too many contenders. While other years, I've had to dig through my photo gallery to remind my taste buds.
Anyhow, here is 2012's list! Food is very simple in concept but when it is crafted by a talented chef it becomes a complex masterpiece. I've selected the below items based on either one or a combination of: flavor, freshness, balance, composition, uniqueness and a couple of the items were selected if only because someone took a very simple dish and made it above and beyond.
1) Spaghetti Scoglio at Olio E Limone Ristorante (Santa Barbara, CA)
2) Farmers Salad w/ Grilled Shrimps at Cucina Enoteca (Irvine, CA)
3) Koi Ramen at Kohyu (Costa Mesa, CA)
4) The Shrimp and Scallops Mesquite Grilled Salad at the Original Fish Company (Cypress, CA)
5) Chirashi at Toshi Sushi (Little Tokyo, Downtown LA)
6) Chocolate Cake/Cupcake at French's Cupcake Bakery (Costa Mesa, CA)
7) Buffalo Sloppy Joe's at Beachwood BBQ (Long Beach, CA)
8) Brunch at Tap's Fishhouse (Brea, CA)
9) Paella at Catal Restaurant (Downtown Disney, Anaheim CA) - it's hard to find paella here in the OC, so this ended up on my list if only because it's been a really long time since I've had it.
10) Cupcakes from My Delight Cupcakery (in particular the Dulce de Leche!) (Ontario, CA and via their cupcake truck)