Whatever La Posta’s Katherine Stern cooks up this year, we want to be there for it.

Whatever La Posta’s Katherine Stern cooks up this year, we want to be there for it.

Everyone has favorite places, foods, flavors and must-have culinary products. These are the items you find yourself reaching for, fantasizing about and looking forward to each and every time. I've got mine too. It's no secret that I return again and again to the hearth of chef Katherine Stern, whose La Posta menu never fails to deliver both the anticipated satisfactions and new surprises. One of our final dinners of 2013 found us feasting on the inimitable house breads studded with nuts and warm from the oven. I loved an antipasto plate of Dungeness crab salad surrounded by various beets, various citrus slices, avocado and branches of peppery brassica. We also grazed on the salumi misti that included tiny gems of duck prosciutto as well as a pork paté that had me sentimental for France. Our favorite entree was a Fogline Farm chicken breast done Milanese “schnitzel” style, with a bold cabbage-fennel slaw. Each dinner at La Posta becomes my favorite.

My top coffee of the year is (was, and will be) the earthy sweet macchiato creations from Lulu's Octagon. Always stamped with a lovely triple heart of thick foam, this is an espresso drink worth fighting for. The bread that has won my heart this year is the Walnut Sourdough from Companion Bakeshop.  Sometimes I get it from the Westside Farmers Market, sometimes I let myself visit the Bakeshop itself. A temple of temptations, it has now created an indecently intriguing almond rye cookie to match its illegally addictive pumpkin tea cake. The round loaves, including my favorite Walnut Sourdough, are always fragrant from the wood ovens. The crust is thick and chewy. The texture is both pliant and tender. I've seen fellow admirers of this bread tear apart a loaf with their bare hands in the market and begin eating before they even reach their cars. Small wonder.

The hot sauce of the year is Chalula red pepper sauce, a hot sauce with depth and flavor, as well as kick. The runner up is Sriracha chile sauce, always fiery, endlessly adaptable. The condiment of the year is Major Grey’s Hot Mango Chutney. I literally add it to every slow-cooked dish I make. Our house red wine of the year is Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyards’ Grenache.  Full-throated, complex yet not wildly complicated, flexible enough to join almost any food and well under $20 in price. Any grenache made by winemaker Jeff Emery works for me. My favorite bottled water this year is the mineral-intensive Gerolsteiner. Loaded with bubbles, this is a sparkling water that lets you know you’re not drinking mere tap water. It contains more calcium, magnesium and bicarb than San Pellegrino. And our house sandwich this year is the mighty, sensuous, and omega oil-driven tuna salad sandwich from New Leaf Market. Maybe it’s the little shredded carrots, or the micro green scallions. Just don’t know. But it is a serious tuna sandwich, especially the way we like it made—on nine-grain bread with mayo, tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts and pickles. Our favorite neighborhood weekday dinner? A shared salad and shared pizza at Pizzeria Avanti—add a glass of red wine and you've got just about everything you need without spending a fortune.

In 2014 I look forward to more dinners at O'mei, Pizzeria Avanti, Booka, Laili and Maharaja (gotta check out the full menu). And I anticipate good things from Assembly, Splash and Your Place. We'll see. I invite you to join me in dining often at favorite restaurants. If we frequent them, they will thrive. Happy New Year!