Between the explosion of London’s restaurant scene, a pretty decent amount of travelling, and emigrating to a new city with an abundance of previously unexplored ethnic food options, 2012 has been a year of good (and at times, ridiculously excessive) eating. Here are some of the best things I put in my mouth over the past 12 months. Ahem.
1. Scottish raspberries with strained yoghurt, elderflower and barley, at Dabbous, London
Dessert is a course that I can usually take or leave, but this deceptively innocent-looking concoction at Dabbous left a lasting impression. It sounds simple, even boring, but the balance of creamy yoghurt, tart raspberry puree and chewy barley was the perfect end to a memorable meal that cemented Dabbous’ reputation as one of London’s best new restaurants.
2. Mini Taco Sampler at Guisados, Los Angeles (View in the Directory)
There were so many things to love about this sampler plate of six mini tacos, each of with comes with a different topping of braised beef, pork and chicken with various complimentary salsas: flavour, value for money, and intense fat kid satisfaction in one novelty-sized package. Guisado’s has a reputation as one of the best taco spots in LA (and there are a LOT of taco spots in LA), which pretty much tells you all you need to know.
3. Açaí Cup at Kicê Sucos, Rio de Janeiro (View in the Directory)
Just thinking about the sugar content in this thing makes my teeth clench involuntarily, but my God it was good. Made by blending the açaí berry with intensely sweet guarana syrup, this sorbet-esque refresher was the perfect antidote to Brazil’s dense tropical heat. I’ve been craving it ever since I left.
4. Confit Salmon at Corner Room at The Townhouse Hotel, London (View in the Directory)
One of several almost-too-pretty-to-eat dishes I enjoyed at Corner Room this year, and certainly the most memorable. Confit is a method of cooking that basically involves poaching meat in oil instead of water (I think). It’s most commonly used to cook duck but it works just as well, if not better, with salmon - resulting in rich, fatty cubes of melt in the mouth goodness.
5. Kale salad with cheddar, delicata squash, almonds, pecorino and fried eggs, Northern Spy Co., New York City (View in the Directory)
I definitely consumed more kale in 2012 than in all the previous years of my life combined, and this was the dish that kicked it all off. The combination of slightly bitter greens with savoury cheddar, crunchy almonds and a slick of sunshine orange egg yolk made for the perfect salad - flavoursome enough that it didn’t feel too virtuous, but healthy enough that I didn’t feel like I might as well have ordered the cheeseburger instead. Speaking of which…
6. Cheeseburger at The Admiral Codrington, London (View in the Directory)
Perhaps the best cheeseburger I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve eaten a few. Juicy, rich, perfectly pink meat. Sturdy bun (nothing worse than a soggy bun that disintegrates in your hands mid-meal). Crunchy, fluffy chips on the side. If you live in London, go and get one immediately.
7. Soy-and-Ginger Chicken Wings at Rita’s Bar & Dining, London (View in the Directory)
Rita’s is great in lots of ways - fun atmosphere, cool crowd, good prices, prime Dalston location - and these chicken wings are one of them. The perfect balance of tender meat, crunchy skin, and salty soy-ginger glaze is addictive. I could eat two plates of these wings in a row and probably still want more. Good thing I no longer live in London.
8. Fried Herring with Beetroot and Mashed Potatoes, The Seahorse, Helsinki (View in the Directory)
This combination is the stuff of schoolchildren’s nightmares, but as a fully grown adult I enjoyed it very much. The fried herring was perfectly light and crispy, the mashed potatoes were creamy and smooth and the beetroot provided the perfect amount to tartness to cut through all that dairy and oil. Good stuff.
9. Grilled Squid with Olive Oil and Parsley, Fish Shack, Ibiza (View in the Directory)
Like all the best meals, this dish brings back happy memories of really good times. Ibiza is an incredible place, and the fish shack in Talamanca offers the kind of dining experience that would be impossible to replicate anywhere else. I can’t wait to go back there. (Also: this was the best squid I’ve ever eaten).
10. Golden Cuttlefish Cheung Fun, Princess Garden of Mayfair, London (View in the Directory)
I’ve never hesitated over disclosing a favourite restaurant more than I did with Princess Garden, but it really is too good to keep to myself. Undoubtedly my favourite dim sum spot in the city, and the crunchy, chewy, salty, slippery golden cuttlefish cheung fun is undoubtedly my favourite dim sum dish.
11. Chicken Beyti at Hasan, London
This was probably the restaurant meal I ate the most times in 2012. Everyone has their favourite Turkish restaurant on Stoke Newington Road in London and Hasan is mine. The staff are lovely, the room is big enough that you won’t spend the rest of the night smelling like the smoke pouring off the grill (an appealing aroma, but not one you want your hair to reek of), and their chicken beyti is tender, garlic-loaded perfection. HASAN, I MISS YOU.
12. Playa’s Punch at Earlez Grille, Los Angeles
OK, so this toxic coral-coloured Kool-Aid was so sweet that it made my sinuses buzz and it definitely doesn’t count as a meal, but I’ve given it a million point bonus for the name of alone. Playa’s Punch (which is sold in the iconic Earlez Grille in South Central) was one of many reasons why I’m excited to be starting a new year in the crazy, crazy town that is Los Angeles. Roll on 2013.