The 17 Best Things I Ate in 2017

Ah, my annual wrap-up of favorite foods. I wonder sometimes how long I can keep numbering this list as I currently do – I’ve done the 15 best foods of 2015, the 16 best of 2016, and now, of course, the 17 best of 2017. If I’m still blogging in, say, 2033, it might be time to throw in the towel and just go with a top ten. But, luckily for me, I ate well in 2017, and there is plenty of food to populate this list. To wit:

One: Porthilly Oysters with Pink Pearl Apple Granita at Lyle’s (London)

This list is not really ordered but, if it were, I think these oysters would go at the top. One of the first things I ate in 2017, these little guys were memorable from the start: the second they hit my table, that vivid pink commanded my attention (and clearly stayed with me all year). The granita makes the bite even more cool and refreshing than oysters typically are, and its slight sweetness pairs with the saltiness of the oysters perfectly.

Two: Brunch at Brunch & Cake (Barcelona)

An Instagram favorite due to the bright colors and creative presentation of its food, Brunch & Cake also has plenty of substance to go along with its style. I ate there a few times while in Barcelona; my favorite meal was this brunch with my sister. We split two dishes: blueberry cheesecake “pancakes” (which in actuality had the consistency of straight up cake) topped with a whole pineapple and a shrimp and poached egg sandwich on black bread. Both dishes were flavor explosions!

Three: The Tasting Menu at Babu Ji (NYC)

One of my most foodie friends had long sung Babu Ji’s praises to me and, last fall, I finally had the chance to visit myself. She did not steer me wrong; I immediately proclaimed this one of my favorite meals of the year while my dad and I were still eating! I’m not an expert on Indian food, so I decided the safest course was to order the tasting menu, a variety of appetizers, naan, curries, rices, and desserts selected by the chef. I must confess that I didn’t take specific notes on any of the dishes but, trust me, it was all so good (even for an absolute spicy food wimp like myself).

Four: Roasted Bone Marrow at St. John Bread & Wine (London)

After I ordered the roasted bone marrow at St. John, I watched in satisfaction as the server walked up to the chalkboard and erased the dish’s name: I had scored the very last plate of the day. My satisfaction – and feeling of luck! – only deepened once I tasted the dish and discovered how delicious it was. I felt the dish lived up to every bit of (considerable) hype it receives; the bone marrow was so rich and flavorful. I dug around furiously trying to get every morsel of marrow I could, as I simply could not bear to miss a bite.

Five: Gin & Tonic for Dessert at Akelarre (San Sebastián)

Akelarre is a three Michelin star restaurant, so my sister and I had the highest of expectations for our meal there. Much to my surprise, my favorite dish of the night was a dessert course (not typically the case for me!): the Gin & Tonic on a plate. My sister and I were both wowed by this – its flavor was so strong and vibrant; it truly tasted like pure G&T. Incredibly memorable.

Six: Hot Chicken at Hattie B’s (Nashville)

While in Nashville, my friends and I took our fair share of Lyfts and, every ride, we invariably asked our driver for their food and drink recommendations. Just as invariably, our driver would recommend the hot chicken at Hattie B’s. Hattie B’s often has a huge line during the day, so my friends and I went there at midnight and grabbed our chicken to go. We devoured it back at our AirBnB in our pajamas, which just might be the best way to eat fried chicken ever. Nashville’s Lyft drivers did not steer (see what I just did there?!) us wrong: it was in.cre.di.ble. Fried to perfection, crispy, and delicious: this chicken is a winner.

Seven: Swordfish at Mercado San Juan (Mexico City)

On the surface, Mercado San Juan looks a bit ordinary; as far as market halls go, it’s definitely one of the less fancy ones I have visited during my travels. But it reminded me how risky it is to judge on appearances alone, as this place has some truly top-notch food. Case in point: we sat down for a meal at one of the market’s “restaurants” (more like food counters) for a seafood feast. We were given a HUGE plate of swordfish that turned out to be out of this world. The presentation was simple, but this dish was buttery, rich, melt-in-your-mouth goodness – a total treat!

Eight: Detroit-Style Pizza at Emily West Village (NYC)

When I heard there was a restaurant in New York serving “Detroit-style” pizza, I felt duty-bound, as a Michigander, to make my way there. I wound up totally loving the pizza at Emily, and found myself visiting the restaurant many times this year (every time someone comes to visit, I take them there). It’s simple and unfussy and less showy than many of the entries on this list, but oh so good.

Nine: Chocolate Napolitana at La Mallorquina (Madrid)

Upon arriving in Madrid, my sister and I made our way first to Puerta del Sol – the literal center of Madrid – and to the famous La Mallorquina bakery. We ordered a chocolate napolitana – basically, a pain au chocolat with like five times the chocolate and a dusting of powdered sugar – to split, and we ate it sitting in the middle of the square in the sunshine. It was one of those perfect little moments that reminded me of the simple pleasures of traveling.

Ten: Chipirones at Barrafina (London)

Sneaking in right under the wire – I ate here on December 31st! – were the chipirones (baby squid) at Barrafina. I initially questioned whether something that’s a very, very close cousin of calamari merited a place on any “best of” list, but these were so damn good I could not deny them a spot. Salty little flavor bombs, these chipirones make the perfect snack and were the standout among many great dishes I tried at Barrafina.

Eleven: Salted Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Chocolate Flecks at Jeni’s (Nashville)

During a very hot July visit to Nashville, ice cream was always going to be mandatory. Luckily, Nashville has several Jeni’s locations around town, so it wasn’t hard to get our fix. I had the salted peanut butter with chocolate flecks and it blew me away – in fact, it’s possibly my ideal ice cream flavor. It really hit the spot!

Twelve: Gambas Al Ajillo and Sausage at La Casa del Abuelo (Madrid)

When you think Spanish food, you think tapas….and I must admit that after two weeks there, I got a little burnt out on them! They can start to feel a bit same-y after a while (in my opinion, of course), but every now and then, you come across ones that are so purely delicious that they rise above the usual fare. That’s how I felt about the gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp) and sausage at Casa del Abuelo. They were jam-packed with flavor, and I was obsessed.

Thirteen: Everything at the Mimo Cooking Class (San Sebastián)

One of the most memorable experiences of my time in Spain last fall was the cooking class my sister and I took at Mimo in San Sebastián. Our entire meal – from pintxos to dessert – was incredibly delicious, and even moreso given that we helped cook it (though, admittedly, I was perhaps not quite so helpful as some others). My favorite dish was our octopus pintxo: we began by literally boiling a gigantic, several-feet-long octopus and wound up with tasty, perfectly flavored morsels.

Fourteen: The Cinnamon Roll at Delish (Zurich)

Delish has a sign hanging from its window, proclaiming themselves the home of “the best cinnamon roll in town.” While I’m not so sure that there are all that many cinnamon rolls in Zurich, I’m sure the sign is truthful nonetheless. The cinnamon roll at Delish is…. well… delish! I got one my first morning in town as a birthday treat to myself, and it was so good that I had to get one the next morning too. We’ll call it a birthday plus one treat. That’s a thing, right?

Fifteen: Tacos at El Rincón Tapatío (Mexico City)

El Rincón Tapatío was not a restaurant I would have visited on my own; it has a rather hole-in-the-wall quality to it that I probably would have walked by without a second thought. Thank goodness the leader of my food tour brought our group here: I LOVED this place! I tried two tacos: the sublime arachera (beef with cheese) and an al pastor (slow-cooked pork). The tacos and the generous heaping of accompaniments we were provided (salsas, guac, cucumbers, and fantastic grilled onions) made for one of my simplest yet most memorable meals in Mexico.

Sixteen: The Tasting Menu at Triciclo (Madrid)

One of my favorite meals of the year was one of the ones I ironically – and unfortunately – had to eat the quickest. After getting a bit lost and waiting forever for an Uber, my sister and I were way late to our meal here. We decided to go for the tasting menu anyway, even though we had a flight to catch that afternoon. What ensued next? We basically inhaled each course before hightailing it to the airport (where we made our flight with plenty of time to spare). It’s a shame we had to eat so fast, but we loved this meal nonetheless: my favorite dish was the fish (it came with the best sauce); my sister’s, the braised short ribs. I’d love to go back one day and eat Triciclo’s fabulous food at a more civilized pace!

Seventeen: A Last Hurrah at Spring (Paris)

During the fall I spent living in Paris for work, the tasting menu at Spring became one of my favorites. When I revisited this year, I found that it still contained quite a few standout dishes. On this go-round, my favorites were the sea urchin with lemon and spinach (the broth was unbelievably rich and unique) and the sole with mussels and clam (again, the BROTH, man! I spooned up every last bit). I’m glad I got in one final round: this fall, Spring closed. I’ll miss having it in my Paris rotation.

Honorable Mentions, Part 1 (clockwise from top left): the creme caramel and honeycomb donut at Bread Ahead (London); the crab and coconut milk at Kokotxa (San Sebastián); the cinnamon roll at La Rollerie (Madrid) (it was apparently a good year for cinnamon rolls); the Tokyo Shoyu ramen at Ivan Ramen (NYC).

Honorable Mentions, Part 2 (clockwise from top left): the octopus with garlic, rice, and greens at Casa Oaxaca (Oaxaca); the ham croquettes at Cambio de Tercio (London); the warm sticky toffee pudding at No. 11 Pimlico Road (London); the pull apart butter and honey bread at Maison Pickle (NYC).

Aaaaaaand that was my 2017 in food. I cannot wait to see taste what 2018 has in store!


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