Ripple in Cleveland Park has one of Amy McKeever’s favorite dishes: bacon-roasted pecans. (Scott Suchman/For The Washington Post)

We caught up with McKeever to ask her about her essential eats, where she takes guests and her most anticipated restaurants of 2012.

How did you fall into eating for a living?

McKeever: You know, I’m still trying to figure that one out. This time four years ago, I was watching the primaries for a Japanese newspaper, so this was a big shift. But I’ve always been a journalist and I’ve always loved to eat. And I got really, really lucky.

Let’s say you were heading out to dinner with an eclectic group of friends -- including foodies, a couple of calorie-counters, a vegetarian -- where would you go?

I don’t think I know any calorie-counters, but let’s see... Toki Underground, Kushi and Hank’s Oyster Bar come to mind first. I was a regular at Meridian Pint when I lived in the neighborhood. Also, Rasika, Founding Farmers and Jaleo are good options.

The idea of the best restaurants is a fluid thing. Restaurants change, as do palates and pocketbooks. Which are the five places Washingtonians should be eating now?

Hands down, Little Serow for those who’ve always wanted to try Komi chef Johnny Monis’s food but balked at the prices. I’ve also been getting good feedback about Pork Barrel BBQ and Elisir — which seems to be more accessible at lunch. Finally, Pearl Dive Oyster Palace and Graffiato. Two majorly hyped restaurants, but I’ve had great meals at both.

What new restaurants are you most looking forward to in 2012?

Daikaya, the izakaya and noodle shop coming to Penn Quarter from Sushiko’s Daisuke Utagawa and former Think Food Group chef Katsuya Fukushima. I would love it if a thousand noodle shops opened in the District. Same goes for the cheesesteak place from the Taylor Gourmet guys. I have family in Philly and could really use a reliable cheeseteak so that I don’t have to visit every time I’m craving one.

As a reporter, I can’t wait to cover all the two million restaurants that former Top Chef contestants Mike Isabella and Bryan Voltaggio are opening this year. And let’s all keep fingers crossed that Eataly comes through.

Readers just shared with us some of their favorite dishes in Washington. What are a few of yours?

I am obsessed with Ripple’s bacon-roasted pecans right now and was so glad when Washingtonian sleuthed the recipe so that I could make it for my folks at Christmas. Also the dumplings (or anything else) at Toki Underground, duck sausage at Kushi, moist brisket at Hill Country, pork belly at Honey Pig... and I keep thinking back to an onion soup burger at Poste. I guess it’s clear I am not a vegetarian.