Another year has gone by and I have stuffed my face with tasty treats. I essentially spent the month of January reminiscing on my gastronomic feats of 2019. I also did plenty of eating in January as well (stay tuned for some of that!) In order of date visited, these are my top 10 eats of 2019.
1. Foie Gras Cannoli at Masseria; Washington, D.C.
I know, right? A foie gras CANNOLI?! How could it be? This is one of those special tasting menu bites. We were seated at the Chef’s Table. The creamy filling was book-ended with black truffle. I wanted 27 more.
2. Shaved Potato with Golden Osetra Caviar at Atelier Crenn; San Francisco
I was fortunate to visit Atelier Crenn when I was in San Francisco for work. This was one of those dishes you could add on to the tasting menu. Usually I don’t add things but I am so glad I did! Not only was it my favorite dish at Atelier Crenn, it was one of my favorites of the year. One of these days I am going to splurge and buy a jar of that caviar. For now, I just drool over my photos. Also, Dominique Crenn is a badass. I have such admiration for that chef.
3. Bacon and Cornbread Stuffed Quail at The Red Fox Inn Tavern; Middleburg, Va.
This was part of a tasting menu and when I chose this appetizer, I had no idea what to expect. The stuffed quail was served on top of a potato patty. The stuffing was a savory mixture, but not too filling. It paired perfectly with the quail. I’ve also realized after scouring my pictures that 2019 was a year of quail and pigeons in many of my meals. Not sure what that says about me…Read more about my Middleburg getaway here.
4. Frozen Air Bread with Caviar at Disfrutar; Barcelona
Ok, so sensing a caviar theme here…Honestly, this was probably the hardest choice for this list because EVERYTHING at Disfrutar was phenomenal. I mean, it is ranked the #9 best restaurant IN THE WORLD! We talk about our experience here often, always with smiles, and then drifting off into a Spanish food fantasy…Sorry. I’m back. This was a bite served toward the beginning of our tasting. It almost had a savory donut texture and was filled with cream and caviar. Again, I will have 27 more of these. Read more about my Disfrutar experience here.
5. Ensaladilla Rusa at Ganbara; San Sebastián
This. This weird, Spanish/Russian potato salad thing that tastes nothing like your mama’s picnic potato salad. San Sebastián is gastronomy heaven so, picking just one pintxo? Yikes. But this was it, without question. It was our first pintxo stop of our trip to San Sebastian, and we finished our pintxo hopping in the same place. We had to have another scoop. This mound of the finished product is probably the size of a large watermelon (or small roast turkey?). We watched the chef chop every thing you could possibly chop and cover layer after layer. There was even tuna which turned out to be what set it apart from others I have had. It’s served as a scoop on a small plate, topped with olive oil and vinegar. I want it every single day. Read more about our pintxo hopping here.
6. Hake Cheeks on their Wave at Arzak; San Sebastián
This was a bucket list restaurant. I have admired Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter Elena for years. This dish is a quintessential Basque dish (with an Arzak twist) and those hake cheeks completely melted in my mouth. I was thrilled to meet Elena (and also force my body and hand into Juan Mari) on our way out. Sorry, Juan Mari. Some people freak out over Brad Pitt, I freak out over chefs. What can you do?
7. King Crab Legs at Humpy’s Great Alaskan Alehouse; Anchorage
We saved King Crab Legs for our very last meal during our week-long summer trip around Alaska. We spoke with a few locals to find where to go who said, aside from making these ourselves which we all do you dumb tourist, Humpy’s has a great, well-priced selection. Also, Humpy’s? Come on. I’m a sucker for a great bar name. My mom used to make king crab legs on special occasions. Apparently I channeled my inner child during this trip because I tore into these with such desire and expertise that you would have thought I was a native Alaskan. Not one ounce of meat was left behind. These were better (and much larger) than any king crab legs I’ve ever had or seen.
8. Crépinette de Volaille au Foie Gras et Fruits at Le Coucou; New York City
Ah, foie gras. Another theme in this list. Although, if you’re going to hold it against me that my list features two foie gras choices and two caviar choices, well then, my friend, we are not friends. This dish was like nothing I have ever had. It’s chicken sausage (I’m usually against sausage with feathers) filled with creamy foie gras and then formed into that giant patty. It was topped with some sort of stone fruit which perfectly complemented the foie gras. Everyone should now be serving foie gras-stuffed sausage. Do it.
9. White Truffle Gnocchi at Ecco; Zürich
Little pockets of heaven. I am a gnocchi snob. They can go wrong in many ways. But this, these fluffy little pillows in a creamy sauce, these were the real deal. This dining experience was the second best we have ever had. Everything was phenomenal. Oh, and is anything bad when it’s covered with that much white truffle? I may or may not have sung, “Every day I’m trufflin”” as the server shaved these…
10. Truffle and 18-month Comté Grilled Cheese at L’Avant Comptoir de la Terre; Paris
America: We make the best grilled cheese! France: Hold my beer. This was one of those moments where I took a bite and moaned so loudly that people starting staring and I’m sure were convinced I was about to perform the infamous “When Harry Met Sally” scene. Josh actually asked if it was really that good. It was. Perfectly crisp French bread with gooey aged comté and then shaved black truffle. I. Mean. Come. On. This is one of my favorite restaurants in the world. It is more like a tapas/wine bar than a restaurant, but it is turning out some of the best food in Paris. We spend hours here each time we visit and, this time, we were smart enough to stay at the hotel right above. There is a seafood style spot right next door, but we prefer the original L’Avant Comptoir. The trick is to go with the specials on the chalkboard. That’s how I found this baby.