I like to start the new year with a look back at my favorite memories from the previous year. After careful thought and consideration, these are the best things that I ate in 2018.
The Best Things I Ate in 2018
1. Sandwiches at Chez Alain Miam Miam at Les Marche des Enfants Rouges in Paris
Kelly and I spent a few days in Paris before continuing on to Provence, and this sandwich was the best thing that we tasted, it’s probably the best sandwich I have had in my life. The tiny Chez Alain Miam Miam food stall at Les Marche des Enfants Rouges spends 5 minutes making each pair of sandwiches. They do not rush. These sandwiches are made with care and love and attention to detail. They are also made with the freshest bread and produce, and exceptional cheese. It wouldn’t be worth recreating this at home. This sandwich is the culmination of sourcing the very best ingredients and combining the perfect proportions in just the right way.
2. The Dream Cakes at Besaws in Portland, Oregon
I had already ordered beef cheek breakfast tacos, but the waitress suggested that I also try the Dream Cakes. These light fluffy pancakes tasted like a cinnamon roll – without being too sugary or too heavy. You can find my recipe for cinnamon roll pancakes inspired by Besaws here.
In what was one of the most incredible food and travel experiences of my life, I was invited to a dinner with winemakers in Castgilione Faletto, a small town in Italy’s Barolo region. We sipped local wines produced by our dinner companions and feasted on Brasato al Barolo, a regional specialty made by slowly cooking beef in Barolo. It was heavenly.
4. Khao Soi Kai at Pok Pok in Portland, Oregon
This Thai curry soup balanced creamy and spicy flavors, and was loaded with extra tender chicken and soft noodles. It’s a wonderful comfort food meal, that warmed me up after a day spent outside exploring the city. If you can’t make it out to Oregon, they also have a location in Brooklyn.
The day before our dinner with Barolo winemakers, my group attended a cooking class at
In Bra. I have eaten countless macaroni and cheeses in my lifetime, but this one was the best. The difference? The locally produced (impossible to find in America,
I shared my version of the Italian Macaroni and Cheese recipe here.
Gin and Tonics are the big cocktail trend in England right now. A change in British law is now allowing distilleries to make small-batch gin and they are getting creative! One of the best places to experience the Gin and Tonic revolution is The Canary, a chic bar in Bath (England not Maine) where you can mix and match different flavors of gin and tonic. I had a delicious berry gin and tonic that had berry gin in addition to fresh summer berries.
Kelly and I spent a week road-tripping through Provence in July. We walked through fields of lavender, explored tiny hilltop villages, and stayed at one of the most incredible hotels that I have ever seen. We also discovered perfectly creamy and cheese carbonara at La Bastide de Pierre. We had it two nights in a row, because when you are in France, calories do not count.
I love nachos, and the nachos we discovered in Scottsdale came topped with brussels sprouts, melty cheese, picked onions, fresno chilis, corn, a fried egg, and a roasted garlic and beet crema. This dish captures the satisfaction of eating crispy tortilla chips with melted cheese but introduces lots of fresh vegetable flavors.
9. The Steak Special at Dove’s Luncheonette in Chicago
This little Tex-Mex diner in Wicker Park has become one of my go-to spots for a casual date night in Chicago. They say this is a special that is practically on the menu, you can count on it being one of the nightly specials. Perfectly medium rare steak is served on a bed of whipped feta with crispy potatoes, fresh corn, and is topped with a runny egg. Every single element of this meal is perfectly executed.
I made several trips to New York City this year. We celebrated Mother’s Day there with my Mom, shopped for Kelly’s wedding dress, and I explored Gossip Girl filming locations. On Mother’s Day we went to Union Fare for brunch, and we discovered their famous croissants. They make flavors like créme brûlée and red velvet and they sell out every day. We got to try both the créme brûlée and red velvet and our favorite was the créme brûlée.
11. Our Picnic in Lourmarin, France
At the end of our sister road trip through Provence, Charles came to meet us. We wanted to make him feel welcome, and to fulfill his wishes for cheese and fresh baguettes. We decided to have a welcome picnic for Charles. We were meeting up in Lourmarin, and it was the day of their big farmer’s market. We spent 50 euros on cheese alone, and we also picked fresh bread, berries, and a whole rotisserie chicken. It was a delicious feast, and it was fun to shop like locals at the market.
This side dish at Chicago’s GT Prime steakhouse was so delicious that I recreated it and added it to my Thanksgiving menu. Fresh corn is simmered in a creamy parmesan lime sauce then topped with blistered shishito peppers. It’s the perfect balance of cheesy and spicy.
13. Cheese Curds at Lodi Tap House in Maple Park, IL
In the tiny town of Maple Park, just beside Dekalb/Kane country line, you will find the Lodi Tap House. A beer bar known for its cheese curds and burgers. The burger was fantastic, but the cheese curds were the best I have ever had. And I really love cheese curds. While many fried cheese curds have more of a breading than a batter, the curds at Lodi have a light crisp beer batter. They achieve being melted on the inside and crunchy on the outside. They come with a spicy aioli for dipping, and it’s just cheese curd perfection.
What is the best thing you ate last year? I would love to hear about it in the comments!