I love lists, I love year-end roundups, and I love food. So what better way to celebrate the end of 2015 than with a look back at some of the best things I ate this year? It was a good year for me, foodie wise: I traveled a ton, and along the way I discovered lots of amazing food. It’s tough to narrow it down, but these were my favorite bites of 2015:
One: French-Japanese Perfection at Sola (Paris)
This list isn’t in any particular order, but if I had chosen to rank it, Sola just might have been at the very top. I tried a ton of tasting menus in Paris this fall, but I think Sola’s was my favorite of all. Gorgeous presentation, creative dishes, and most importantly, great flavors – Sola had it all. From a foie gras biscuit to an amazing squid ink dish to a smoky, flavorful pigeon, I loved every morsel.
Two: A Lunchtime Feast at Apapacho (Mendoza)
I ate a ton of good food during my week in Argentina, but perhaps my favorite meal was at Apapacho, a restaurant just outside the city of Mendoza. We started by assembling our own picada – basically, an Argentinian meat and cheese board. Then, we ate piping hot empanadas, straight from the brick oven. After that, we went inside and sat down for even more of a feast – an amazing rabbit, fresh baked bread, and flan drenched in dulce de leche. It was possibly the most stuffed I felt in 2015, and it was amazing.
Three: Traditional Québécois Favorites at Aux Anciens Canadiens (Quebec City)
Even though it was the middle of summer, I could not resist a hearty, traditional Québécois feast during my time in Quebec City. Aux Anciens Canadiens came highly recommended by a friend, and I quickly understood why: they do traditional food to perfection. You don’t come here for innovation, you come here for old favorites, done just right. I ordered the meat pie, which was huge and so flavorful. For dessert, I had the maple pie, which seemed to be basically pure maple sugar; it was rich but worth the splurge.
Four: Dinner at Au Passage (Paris)
After watching this video from Bon Appétit and reading about it in several of my go-to Paris food blogs, I knew Au Passage was a must visit for me. I dined at the restaurant in October and, happily, it lived up to all my expectations. Au Passage is simplicity done right: a homey atmosphere without any frilly decor, a spare chalkboard menu, and incredible shareable plates. We enjoyed every dish, but the favorite had to be the most unexpected: a sweet potato topped with feta and barbecue sauce. While feta, barbecue, and sweet potato sounds like a culinary disaster to me, it was amazing in reality – creamy, rich, surprising.
Five: Farm-Fresh Finnish at Restaurant Ask (Helsinki)
Helsinki surprised me in many ways, but perhaps most of all with its food, which was wonderful across the board. One of my favorite dining experiences there had to be Restaurant Ask, where I tried the lunch tasting menu. The food was rustic, simple, and locally sourced. Standouts included the nettle pancakes, the smoked pike perch, and the lingonberry parfait with licorice sauce. Any restaurant that can make me spoon up every last bit of something licorice-based is pretty damn magical in my book.
Six: The Pasta Tasting at Babbo (New York City)
Here’s the remarkable thing about Babbo’s pasta tasting menu: there were five pasta courses and, among my family of four, each of us had a different favorite. Everything was uniformly excellent – the beet ravioli that won me, a beet hater, over, the garganelli with yummy truffled mushrooms, and my favorite of all, the simple but spectacular agnolotti al pomodoro. Factor in the tasty grilled octopus we had to start and the variety of desserts we had to finish, and this was definitely one of my favorite New York meals all year.
Seven: The Brie aux Noix at Laurent Dubois (Paris)
If there’s one thing I already miss about living in Paris, it’s the cheese. It seems like such a cliché to rave about all the cheese in France, but, man, is it ever true. There are a bunch of Parisian cheese shops I love – other favorites include Fromagerie Hisada and Fromagerie Jouannault – but Laurent Dubois was my favorite of those I tried this fall. There are tons of great options here – the perfectly drippy Rocamadour, a fantastic 30-month aged Comté, a goat cheese wrapped in pistachios – but my favorite was the Brie aux Noix, a brie with walnuts in it. I’ve never been a fan of brie, but I could eat bricks of this stuff. It is cheesy perfection, with the cheese and the nuts complementing each other beautifully.
Eight: Everything at Verjus and Ellsworth (Paris)
It may seem like cheating to include two restaurants in one spot, but Verjus and Ellsworth are owned by the same folks and just a few steps away from each other, so I figured it was fair enough. At Verjus, we tried the tasting menu with wine pairing, and it may have rivaled Sola for my favorite meal in Paris. Highlights included: a scrumptious sea scallop (beautifully presented on a shell), super tasty mushrooms, and – with our bill – homemade caramels that melted in your mouth. At Ellsworth, we grabbed lunch a week later, where I had an amazing Brussels sprout salad (I could eat that for lunch every day) and a tasty friend chicken sandwich.
Nine: High End Street Food at Smorgasburg (Brooklyn)
Of all the things I love about living in New York, Smorgasburg has to be one of my very, very favorites. It isn’t just that there’s a ton of food at Smorgasburg, it’s that there’s a ton of quality food. You won’t find crappy hotdog vendors here. Instead: perfectly seasoned lobster rolls from Red Hook Lobster Pound, Thai-inspired hot dogs from Asia Dog, burgers with ramen buns from – of course – Ramen Burger, and classier twists on ice cream sandwiches from Good Batch. I could not even begin to pick a favorite.
Ten: Thanksgiving Dinner (Los Angeles)
This list is filled with fancy schmancy restaurants – but, in truth, aren’t some of the very best meals home-cooked? After months abroad, I was craving some good old fashioned food, and what better occasion than Thanksgiving to deliver it. We had an ample amount of Moscow Mules throughout the day, our turkey was golden brown and oh-so-moist, my Dad’s stuffing was as incredible as it ever is (it’s what I would eat as my last meal), and the chocolate pumpkin pie was a sweet finish. ‘Merica for the win, man.
Eleven: Lunch at Brasserie Les Haras (Strasbourg)
You know a place is good when, for a solid week or so afterward, you keep saying, “man, I can’t believe how great that meal was.” Brasserie Les Haras was just one of those places. I had mushrooms to start – they were crazy flavorful – and a beautiful duck with mashed potatoes for my main. Not only was the food excellent, but the space was beautiful, with its high-beamed wooden ceilings. Great atmosphere, even better food.
Twelve: Five Courses and Five Cocktails at Dersou (Paris)
When I think of French fine dining, I picture myself sipping a nice wine alongside my food. Rarely do I think of cocktails – and that’s probably because Paris just isn’t traditionally that much of a cocktail town. It seems that’s changing these days, and Dersou is all over that, offering 5 course, 5 cocktail or 7 course, 7 cocktail tasting menus. While I would have liked to go big with seven courses, I just didn’t see myself being able to handle that much alcohol, so five it was. The food here was great – I loved the juicy, tasty lamb main – but I included Dersou for the cocktails. They were all inventive, unique, and beautifully presented. It was a great meal – even if I maaaaay have been tipsy by course three.
Thirteen: The Gigantic Pizzas at El Cuartito (Buenos Aires)
One thing I never knew about Argentina was that it has a huge Italian influence in its cuisine, a product of large-scale Italian immigration over the years. Given this, it’s no surprise that Argentinians love pizza. On my last evening in Buenos Aires, we went to El Cuartito for some pies. There was a line out the door and down the block, which was the first sign that this place would be incredible. And when the pizzas came out, they blew me away: they were HUUUUGE and packed with tasty ingredients. We couldn’t begin to finish them all, but damn were they good.
Fourteen: The Fashionista Tea at The Berkeley (London)
I love a good afternoon tea, but The Berkeley elevates it to an art form. The sandwiches are good, but what I will remember forever are the tea cakes. Each is inspired by a different high fashion look, and the result is pure art. I loved the coconut and lime mousse atop a sablé Breton (inspired by an Oscar de la Renta gown), the crème de menthe cremeux (inspired by a Jean Paul Gaultier frock), and the cheesecake and apricot sponge (inspired by a Pucci coat). This was one of the most special dining experiences I had in 2015 for sure.
Fifteen: High Quality Italian at Ober Mamma (Paris)
I didn’t make it to Italy this year, but I found a taste of Italy in a surprising place: Paris! While I love French food, it was nice to have something completely different for once, and Ober Mamma delivered big time. They have a large selection of high quality Italian meats and cheeses; I started with some mozzarella di bufala and San Daniele ham and both were amazing (particularly that mozzarella). I also had a fantastic pizza Margherita for my main. My only regret about Ober Mamma is that I didn’t discover it sooner: I ate there on my very last weekend in Paris and was sad I only got to experience it once.
Honorable Mentions: The pot-au-feu at La Bourse et La Vie (Paris), the ice cream cake at Parm (New York), the duck udon at Kunitoraya (Paris), and the champagne truffles at Charbonnel et Walker (London):
Honorable Mentions, Round 2: The octopus with crystalized lemon at Bistrot Paul Bert (Paris), the cereal milk ice cream with cornflake topping at Milk Bar (New York), the quail and corn cake starter at Fallon & Byrne (Dublin), and the burrata at Pizzeria Mozza (Los Angeles):
What’s the best thing you ate in 2015?