Oh, so many to pick. I thought I’d sift through my food memories (and some locations, too) to share the best of 2016 with you, and hopefully give you a few items to add to your own food lists. A few you may have seen if you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, but many have never been shared!
Let’s dive right in. In no particular order…
Best Picture-Worthy Aperitivo
Hotel de Russie (Rome) always makes the aperitivo beautiful (tied cucumbers!), and those sage almonds were delicious. The view beyond the drinks of their garden was just as beautiful.
Have you read my Guide to Italian aperitivo?
This aperitivo came in a close second, and the spread was even more plentiful.
This goes to Cocoa Nib Toffee at Dandelion Chocolate (SF) – it melts in your mouth. Pretty hard to transport, so plan on getting and consuming immediately. Hat/tip to David Lebovitz.
And speaking of David and toffee(ish), make sure to make his Chocolate-Covered Caramelized Matzoh Crunch – it’s a great go-to treat to bring to parties and always a hit.
Best Airport Lounge Food
Delta, and I believe this was in L.A.. They had pho. Let me repeat that. They had pho in an airport lounge! That day I was also feeling a little under the weather so I added a ton of jalapeños and Sriracha. So good. Thank you, Delta!
If you love to travel like I do, be sure to check out my How I Travel series.
And I made sure to make my own versions at home, too:
Best Food Anniversary
Celebrated the 10th edition of World Nutella Day. I’m no longer running the holiday, but you can read about its origins here.
Best Latte Art
A quick weekend trip to Amsterdam and I was faced with this bear-with-a-goatee latte at Frederix Coffee.
Best Household-turned-Kitchen Item
These hangers are great pasta dryers in a pinch. This homemade pasta recipe is tops.
Best New Craving Place
Crack Shack (San Diego), hands down. Great fried chicken sandwiches, and I’ve never been a huge fan of them, either. This “Señor Croque” has bacon, fried egg, cheddar, miso-maple butter, on a brioche bun. The Coop DeVille was excellent as well.
These Mexican poutine aka loaded fries were amazing, as well.
Best Up & Coming Coffee Culture
Paris is really starting to up their game when it comes to espresso. Historically coffee hasn’t been amazing in France, but that’s starting to change, and I loved seeking out and exploring some of the places putting coffee first.
This is from The Beans on Fire which rotates who’s roasting and serving coffee mid-week, but I’ve also been to several on this list (published after my last trip to Paris else I would have used it!) including KB Cafeshop, Cafe Oberkampf, and Holybelly.
Have you read my Guide to Ordering an Italian Coffee in Italy?
Best Comfort Food
It remains cacio e pepe, pasta with pecorino romano and pepper, forever. If there are more than three ingredients in your cacio e pepe (pasta, cheese, pepper), you’re doing it wrong. Here are a few places in Rome to get it, but you should definitely make it yourself at home!
This lightened-up version of zucchine “zoodles” noodles with cacio e pepe isn’t quite the same but something I make often as well.
Best French Pastry
I’m officially burned out on pain au chocolat, but the étiole au beurre (croissant) is my new (and hard to find) favorite French pastry.
And chouqettes still top the list.
Bonci, Bonci, Bonci
Bonci, and especially the pizza, still gets its own mention. This year, I spent more time trying to replicate the amazing Bonci potato pizza at home so I can get it all the time. Bonci has a pizza cookbook if you can’t get to Rome yourself.
Best Way to Eat Soup: In a Dumpling
While I was in Sydney (Australia), I was lucky enough to have dumplings, especially these delicious soup dumplings, at Din Tai Fung. They’re from Taiwan but they’re now in the US and a few other international locations as well.
Not familiar with soup dumplings? You can watch The Shanghai Soup Dumpling episode with Emeril and Mario Batali on Amazon for a great intro.
Best Cake / Pastry Display
Purebread in Whistler, Canada. It almost makes your eyes melt. How can you choose what to get?
Best Trendy, but not Overhyped, Ingredient
Cauliflower rice is pretty delicious, and makes a pretty healthy fried rice you can binge on and feel good about. Make your own.
Best Grilled Octopus
Grilled octopus is something I will auto-order if it’s on a menu (in Italy) and not every one is great, but when it’s good, it’s great! This one was during my team meetup in Florence, at io – Osteria Personale, thanks to a recommendation from Erin, and was definitely in the great category.
Best Aspirational Place for Aperitivo
Someday, I hope to have a beautiful place for aperitivo of my own, but I doubt it will be as beautiful as this rooftop terrace at the Hotel Baglioni in Florence, Italy. Extra bonus points if the hotel is pretty deserted as we found it.
Best New Food Trend
Poke bowls are the new sushi, especially in the Bay Area (California). Even Whole Foods has a poke bar so you can even self-serve. Some poke bars are good, some are great, and some are probably disguising not-awesome fish. But spicy, crunchy, and savory…so good.
Best Atypical Tasting Party Idea: French Butter
Go to a supermarket in France and buy all the butter you can find to taste test your favorite on slices of baguette. The Beillevaire demi-sel croquant (with crunchy flakes of salt) is my favorite.
Best Way to Get a Taste of Italy if You’re Not There
This was a really cool concept and would make a great gift for an Italophile – a subscription service to get the best of Italy! Nonna Box can be sent monthly, with a selection of products and recipes to use those products. I received the Piemonte / Piedmont box and there was a good mix of favorites (like risotto with porcini mushrooms) and a few products which are certain to be discoveries for those who don’t live in Italy (like corn cookies aka paste di meliga), along with some history and information about what they’ve sent.
Disclosure: I was sent a free sample box to check out by the team at Nonna Box (and no other compensation), but opinion / words are my own. I really liked the quality of the presentation and the products, and have already planned to gift a subscription.
Best New Way to Eat Nutella
When I was in Montenegro, my lovely hosts made sure I found out about Nutella & Plazma. Here, those Plazma cookies (also called Plasmon in Italy) are crushed up and sprinkled on top of the Nutella which was spread over the palacinke – crepe, but I’ve heard a favorite way is to just eat the biscuits with Nutella directly.
Best Crêpe Bretonne (France) Combo
Brie, walnuts, bacon, and honey, or pretty much anything on the menu at West Country Girl in Paris. Their crispy, buttery edges are what I dream about.
Best Dish to Share with a Friend
When in Vienna, you should definitely try wiener schnitzel, breaded veal cutlet, and share it with a friend if it’s as big as the one we got while I was in Vienna for WordCamp Europe. It was literally falling off the plate. The cotoletta, from Milan, is similar but not quite the same, and Le Cotolette in Milan also serves them gigantic (but not amazing).
Best Treat That Looks Gluttonous but is Really Only a Few Bites of Guilt
I’m sure I’ve talked about Aux Merveilleux de Fred (France, but mostly in Paris) before, and if I haven’t, shame on me. They show you how they make these wonderful meringue concoctions through their wide shop windows where you can peer in creepily at the workers and watch them spread cream on meringues and then roll them in toasted and sugary bits that you’d prefer to roll in yourself, and then you realize you’ve been staring long enough to be rude and for it to count as entertainment so you just have to go inside and buy some (and then try not to be amazed at how you pay through an ultra-modern cash machine so they don’t have to handle dirty coins and cash with your food) and then you bite into these lovely fluffy mounds that literally disintegrate in your mouth, and you realize you might have only gotten a bite or maximum two out of each one and you should have ordered at least twice as many as you wanted to but now it’s too late to go back.
So order more.
Best Single-Purpose Kitchen Tool I Don’t Regret Purchasing
If you make chicken stock or soups as much as I do, you’ll enjoy this drumstick-shaped herb and spice infuser in silicone. Instead of tying up things with string, I throw some sticks of rosemary, bay leaves, peppercorns, and even coriander / thyme / fennel seed as desired to infuse in my broth, with little-to-no cleanup after.
Best Ramen: Miso Broth
Ramen is hot hot hot right now in the Bay Area, and many restaurants have lines out the door to get it. Remember I talked about craving tantanmen? I am now getting a lot of ramen often, and I am firmly on the miso broth wagon for ramen.
Best Italian Morning Pastry
I’ve kind of given up on enjoying a cornetto or brioche in Italy, as they’re a far cry from the buttery croissants I expect from a pastry in that shape. They can be made with lard or margarine instead of butter, they may be more cakey than flakey. There are exceptions! But based on the breadth of quality I can encounter in a cornetto, I don’t order them all the time. If I can order a veneziana brioche, a simple sweet bread with a little sugar/custard on top, I will, or if I’m in Rome, I’ll get a maritozzo instead.
Best Place to do More Food Exploring
What about your top tastes?