We ate a lot this year. In fact, we often ate a lot this year. So it seems only fitting that our year-end reflection take in some of the highlights of that frequent and ferocious pastime of ours.
The 10 Best Things We Ate This Year
10. Baklava in Greece
For all that we loved the food in Turkey, we bestow the title of best Baklava in the Mediterranean on Greece. We frequented bakeries and cafes from Athens to Kefalonia and back through Santorini, and were consistently impressed by crisp, flakey dough, perfectly crumbled pistachio, and golden honey centers. Thank god we now have a surrogate Greek family to return home to for more.
9. Hokkien Mee in Penang
The promise of noodles for breakfast has been seductively beckoning us to South East Asia since we set out from home. Our first noodle breakfast, Hokkien Mee, has quickly become our favourite in Malaysia. For starters we love that Hokkien Mee allows us to eat not one, but two —yellow and vermicelli—types of noodles before 10am. The noodle base quickly integrates floating in an intoxicating very shrimpy, slightly porky broth. Top with boiled egg, sliced pork (and any other piggy parts you fancy, which for me is usually chitlins), tiny prawns, fried shallots and a soup spoon full of chili, and this is a breakfast I’m happy to eat all day.
8. Gelato in Rome
When in Rome, eat gelato. Eat gelato for breakfast. Eat it for lunch. Eat it for supper. And definitely have gelato for dessert. Rome clearly has no shortage of deliciousnesss to ingest at any hour of the day, and at every end of the price and sophistication spectrum. But every pasta, every pizza, and every espresso is made that much tastier by the promise of your next gelato. I’m a sucker for the nut gelato. Pistachio is my favourite, followed by nocciola (hazelnut) and chestnut. But every gelateria has its own speciality. Revealed Rome shares a great list here.
7. Lemon Fumble in Dorset
Goodness, we’re onto the third sweet of this list. It’s safe to say that this trip has really developed our sweet tooth. We’ve eaten enough cake in our travels through the world’s coffee shops to make Marie Antoinette blush. But my very favourite was my birthday cake: a lemon fumble at the River Cottage Canteen in Axminster, Dorset. Fumble is a River Cottage invention that’s part crumble, and part foole (a traditional custard-based English pudding). Layers of lemon curd, crumble and cream are daintily stacked in little mason jars yielding single-serving scoops of heaven. Wish I’d thought of it sooner, but they’d even fit international carry on laws.
6. Cherimoya Fruit in Brazil
Mark Twain called cherimoya “the most delicious fruit known to men”. We’re inclined to agree. Although thought to be native to the Andes, we first really got into cherimoya in Rio. Cliff’s aunt Colette had bought several from the local market, and served them to us at the perfect ripeness—as with all fruit a big key to their overall tastiness. The flesh is almost custard-like and alive with tropical flavours. Some people think it evokes banana or coconut, I get a bit of a lychee nut flavour. The pits can be a pain to work around, but the flavour is worth the extra labour.
5. Matar Kachori in Rajasthan
Blood relatives of (i.e. fried in the same oil as) samosas, matar kachori were a favourite North Indian street food discovery. The slightly smaller than palm-sized balls are golden fried until light and crispy, and then transferred to newspaper. While still piping hot, the shells are crowned with (to the point of being crushed by) an aromatic spicy dal mix that’s equally boiling hot. Matar kachori are served with the same chutneys and sauces as samosas. Dark, sweet tamarind sauce is a particularly delicious way to take the edge off the lentils’ spice.
4. Liquid Olives in Barcelona
If the only good thing to come out of Ferran Adria’s restaurant Tickets was a place for his famous El Bulli Olives to live on, that would be enough. They’re that good. Years after Adria first made international headlines with them, his liquid “olives” still wow. Luckily that’s far from the case, and Tickets puts on a show beyond the olives, but they’re still a standout course. The olives are an emulsion of incredibly flavorful olive purée (it takes multiple actual olives to make a single liquid olive) encapsulated and brined. Like a perfect yoke, it takes a little bite to pierce the olive “skin”. At that moment your mouth is flooded with the flavour of 1,000 martini garnishes. This is molecular gastronomy with the emotional appeal of real food.
3. Jamón Ibérico in Aracena
Remember that month when we didn’t post anything that wasn’t about Jamón Ibérico? We miss those days. Tasting is believing. So I’m going to forgo writing any more about this incredible meat, and cut straight to the proper way to eat it:
I admit the amount of love I showered on this ubiquitous drunk food in my Istanbul street food piece bordered on embarrassing. But damn these things are good. Sticky rice, a light, slightly briny mussel, just enough sweet balanced with just enough salt, they are the perfect snack food. The working/drinking man’s amuse bouche. Why don’t we have street food like this in the States? Kickstarter here I come.
1. Ceviche in Lima
We’ve written a number of street food and city eats posts throughout our travels. But Lima’s ceviche is the only food we’ve dedicated an entire post to as a standalone dish. We first got the ceviche itch in Playa Samara, Costa Rica where we’d buy fish at the beach and Cliff would make fresh ceviche at least one meal a day. By the time we got to Lima, our mercury levels must have been through the roof, but our ceviche appreciation skills were sharp as knives. Ceviche culture is alive and well, and not a bit cliché in Lima. During our stay we established multiple neighbourhood favourite joints. We met ceviche God Javier Wong and dined in Gastón Acurio’s La Mar. We took a ceviche class, and learned that there are 50,000 kids in Lima’s culinary schools at this very moment. The city’s culinary future will hold a lot more than ceviche, but ceviche is a damn good place for those aspiring chefs to start.