These five dishes stand out as the most memorable amid a year of many good times at local tables.
- Butternut squash soup at Alba: Most butternut squash soups can best be described in two words: bo-ring. Chef Joe Tripp rejuvenates the standby, with spiced pecan butter, squash-seed granola and maple-syrup marshmallows. The dish exemplifies the way Tripp’s food melds the familiar with the unexpected in thoroughly gratifying ways. (524 E. Sixth St.; albadsm.com)
- Cheese and charcuterie at Django: On the spectrum between simple-and-sublime and simple-to-a-fault, this plate of well-purveyed delicacies lands firmly in the former field. Lush pâté, artisan cheeses and cured meats arrive beautifully plated with irresistible accompaniments: Marcona almonds, olives, fig jam and cornichons. (210 10th St.; djangodesmoines.com)
- Lamb chops with sweet peas and sweet pea purée at Table 128: While the sweet peas, garden-fresh herb salad and light mint-yogurt accompaniment have all gone the way of summer, take heart, lamb lovers: Whatever Chef Lynn Pritchard does with lamb, he does well, so if you see it on a list of features, snag it! (12695 University Ave., Clive; table128bistro.com)
- Pork cheeks at Eatery A: Steer firmly into bistro territory at bar-grill prices: A mere $14 brings you this rich, meltingly tender meat, sparked with a harissa barbecue sauce and served with a bright fennel slaw. (2932 Ingersoll Ave.; eateryadsm.com)
- Swordfish meunière at Splash Seafood Bar & Grill: Just about any fish tastes great meunière style–that is, lightly flour-dusted, sautéed and finished with a lemon-butter sauce. However, I hail 2016 as the year I discovered that this prep goes especially well on firm, meaty swordfish. (303 Locust St.; splash-seafood.com)