Ironically, one of the greatest things about living in London is how easy it is to leave the country. From January to December last year, I traveled to New York, the Ribera del Duero in Spain, Madrid, New York again, Barcelona, Paris, Istanbul, Paris a second time, the Loire Valley in France, Paris a third time, Los Angeles, San Diego, Provence, Paris a fourth time, Munich, New York again, Boston and Palm Beach, Florida.
So. All that travel. Lots of meals. Here’s the most memorable and delish of the year:
Restaurant Jose Maria in Segovia, Spain knows how to serve a roast suckling pig (cochinillo). The piglets are days old, and the restaurant prepares the crackling so perfectly that the servers divide up your cochinillo using nothing but a plate edge. It’s fun to watch, but eating the pig is the main attraction. This is how it’s done.
Pork bun sandwiches at Momofuku Ssam Bar in New York. Pork has never tasted so melt-in-your mouth.
Maison Eric Kayser’s mini-financiers are nutty and sweet with a moist, chewy center. Buy a bag because they make the perfect walking-around snack in Paris. Unlike les macarons, financiers aren’t easily crushed, and mini-anything is always extra appealing, no?
Bar Mut’s carpaccio huevos fritos speaks to breakfast lovers everywhere. Crispy shoestring potatoes + hot, gooey egg yolk = match made in heaven.
I ate so many delicious and memorable meals in Istanbul that it’s hard to pick just one dish, but if pressed, I’d name the fried anchovies at divey outdoor restaurant Furran Balikcilik, located in the Karakoy fish market. I don’t recall eating fresher, meatier anchovies than these, ever, and the guy who deftly battered and fried these fish should be working the fryer at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
Argh. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave so many great meals in Istanbul represented by a mere single entry. Muzede Changa, with its gracious hospitality and gorgeous outdoor terrace, served one of the best meals I ate all year, and their “updated” baklava served with clotted cream and quince puree transformed me into a baklava lover.
I love breakfast, and I love Cal-Mex food. Which means that as long as it’s made hot and fresh, huevos rancheros will get me very time. Good work, Tacos Por Favor.
Maybe I was homesick when I ate at Hodad’s in San Diego, but I swear they make one of the best burgers in the world. Or if not the best burger, then *definitely* the best onion rings in the world. If you don’t believe me, go there and try them yourself. It’ll be worth the trip, I promise.
Though our mains at now-Costes-Brothers-owned Thoumieux weren’t very exciting, the starters there were creative, memorable, and most importantly, delicious. The wild calamari salad served with thick lardons and a soft-boiled egg (carbonara style) was both playful and uber tasty. A creamy surf-and-turf. You should eat at Thoumieux for the fresh bread and starters alone, but I guarantee you’ll stay for the atmosphere and good-looking servers.
And I end the year’s list with weisswurst eaten at a cafe (Munchner Schmarkert) in Munich’s Viktualienmarkt. Who would’ve thought a boiled sausage could be so delicious? (Come to think of it, the magic mustard helps).
Here’s to more travels and eating in 2010 . . . .
If you enjoyed reading this post, you might also like last week’s post on my favorite London restaurants in 2009. Also, for an index listing all the posts I’ve written on restaurants outside the UK (organized by country, then by city), click here.