2012 Best Bite #3: Peanut butter cookie dough vegan shake, The Chicago Diner

Each day in December, I’m celebrating my best bites (and sips) in 2012, posted in chronological order.

Peanut butter cookie dough vegan shake

Why it’s a Best Bite: I never thought I would count an entirely vegan shake among the best shakes I’ve ever had, but the veggie masters at The Chicago Diner really know what they’re doing. I can’t tell you how many times this year I’ve mentioned how amazing this shake is, and pulled up this photo on my phone as visual evidence. The texture is spot-on, and getting cookie dough and peanut butter in the same shake makes it that much more indulgent. Luckily for me, The Chicago Diner happened to open a second location last week right here in my neighborhood, so there will likely be a lot more of these shakes in my future.

The details: The Chicago Diner, 3411 N Halsted Ave. and 2333 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.

2012 Best Bite #2: Art’s Hummingbird cake, Table Fifty-Two

Each day in December, I’m celebrating my best bites (and sips) in 2012, posted in chronological order.

Art’s Hummingbird cake

Why it’s a Best Bite: I was previously unfamiliar with this traditionally Southern cake, but over the past two years or so, it’s become my new favorite. I’ve eaten chef Art Smith’s decadent, three-layer version twice now, and I can’t get enough of the combination of banana-pineapple cake and cream cheese frosting. This comforting dessert also perfectly suits its cozy environs at the restaurant, a converted 19th-century carriage house.

The details: Table Fifty-Two, 52 W Elm St., Chicago.

2012 Best Bite #1: Roasted brussels sprouts & cauliflower, Francesca’s Forno

Each day in December, I’m celebrating my best bites (and sips) in 2012, posted in chronological order.

Roasted brussels sprouts & cauliflower

Why it’s a Best Bite: I got to share this large appetizer with a dear friend last New Year’s Eve. It won me over immediately with a generously caramelized blend of brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and onion. The dish struck just the right balance of salty, crispy, and cheesy goodness, with added depth from capers, lemon, and, of course, bacon. Rich and a little messy, it was the right way to start off a celebratory evening.

The details: Francesca’s Forno, 1576 N Milwaukee Ave., Chicago.