What a year the fourth has been! Another 365 days of events, flights and so much ham. This was a pork-filled year, from The Publican in Chicago to jamón ibérico in Spain. Countries visited? Spain, Mexico and the United States on several occasions. Michelin Stars? One. Weird animal parts eaten? Four (heart, tongue, feet, ears). Litres of hollandaise consumed? Immeasurable.
I haven’t written about many of the places I ate in the past year, yet. Between travelling a bunch and living in Toronto, it’s impossible (and expensive) to visit all the cool new places opening, and over the past year I’ve become less concerned about taking a great photo and posting a review the very next day, but focusing on capturing a moment.
My memories of eating a giant plate of bistecca fiorentina in Florence don’t become any less special (or delicious) because I post about it two years later — it’s about telling the story, encapsulating what makes eating around the world so great. Smells, sounds, people and place all make travelling to eat my favourite thing to do, and no trendy list will ever change that.
That being said, this year I totally ate at some Anthony Bourdain recommended spots, and broke my Michelin restaurant cherry, so there’s that too.
Here is to year four, and many many more plates of food.
Popping my Michelin restaurant cherry
This year the Family Day holiday landed on the same weekend as Valentine’s Day, so Adam and I hightailed it to Chicago for a frigid, food filled mini-break, and popping my cherry at a Michelin-star restaurant was top priority.
Boka was amazing. We had a lovely and knowledgeable server, but there was also someone who brought bread, who refilled our water glasses and someone to clear the plates. While this might sound like overkill, the stealthy moves of the staff, working swiftly to the beat of Motown made the experience fancy, relaxed and freaking cool at the same time. We ate chestnut ravioli, duck, and calamari (pictured) just to name a few things. My desert of malted crème fraîche ice cream with pistachios looked as impressive as it tasted.
Changing my mind (a little) about all-inclusive vacation
In March, we went to my best friend’s wedding in Mexico. This Mayan Rivera resort was swanky, we had so much fun, and I have to say I was impressed by some of the food. Sadly the steakhouse didn’t live up to standards, but holy crap did I ever eat a lot of late night hot dogs from the sports bar. This soup with huitlacoche (corn fungus) was served at the Mexican themed restaurant, and it was one of the best thing I ate, imagine that.
The best Ramen
One of my dearest camp friends took me to Ivan Ramen in New York City while I was there on a work trip last March. This Tokyo Shoyu Ramen had the most tender pork belly waiting for me at the bottom of the brothy bowl, simply perfect.
You can also read about my fancy French reunion dinner at Lafayette Grand Café & Bakery the very next evening.
Spain and the best thing I ate all year:
There’s too much food to talk about on our trip to Spain. In June, we spent two weeks in Spain with my parents, my sister and her boyfriend. We ate fancy food, we devoured jamón ibérico sitting on a sidewalk, we ate Indian on a hillside in Madrid and so. many. tapas. (There will be many Spain blog posts to come, including one on our paella cooking class.)
But, you ask, what was my favourite thing I ate on the trip, and probably the whole year? One simple pot of food. Before meeting up with my parents in Alicante, Adam, Sean, Maggie and I had dinner at La Gabinoteca, upon the recommendation of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations Madrid episode. Modern tapas crowded our table, flambéed tableside and served in old sardine cans to the beat of Euro-electric music at this wackily-decorated restaurant.
Named ‘El Potito,’ the perfect little cup of savoury smooth yumminess with truffle — oh god the truffle — and mixing it all up with the egg yolk and the creamy potatoes was the best grown up baby food one could ever eat. The rest of the table weren’t fans (they are crazy), but I could eat from that little jar every day.
The best BBQ
Last fall, Adam’s parents, uncle, brother and his girlfriend were all in town and I knew I had to impress, so obviously I went with BBQ. We all shared the Pit Master Platter at Carbon Bar, and it was carnivorously divine. From the Korean fried cauliflower, to the ultra cool atmosphere (Electric Circus used to be filmed here, if anyone remembers that show), I don’t know how I haven’t been back to this place!
The fanciest desert
To celebrate our engagement in February we went to the newly revamped Cafe Boulud at the Four Seasons Toronto. We were spoiled rotten by the staff with free champagne and this classic desert. I’ve never seen Baked Alaska be performed before; it’s really a show when the flaming Kirsh covers the dish, toasting the meringue, all the while keeping a trifecta of ice creams cold on the inside.
French culinary magic.
The best dumpling
Fantastic fusion dream at Dailo, these Pumpkin Dumplings with creamy pumpkin filling were protected by light wrappers and coated in beurre blanc. SO. FREAKING. GOOD: The perfect balance of Asian and French technique.
I ate a lot of brunch this year, like every year, but The Publican in Chicago takes the cake for the most different and flavourful brunch. I devoured the fanciest steak and eggs ever featuring sirloin, grits and mojo de ajo, while Adam’s boudin noir was super tasty.
Oh, and just to make you drool, here’s a collage of the many many brunch places I enjoyed this year.
The biggest disappointment
For Winterlicous, my friend Kara and her boyfriend Jeremy joined us for dinner at Auberge du Pommier, and we were all kinda sad about the meal. I know, I know, Winterlicious menus are different than the regular menu, they are cheaper etc. But I’ve eaten enough Licious menus to know when it’s bad. Dinner at Bent was phenomenal and so was Winterlicious at The Saint Tavern, this spot just didn’t bring their A-game.
That being said, the desert was the best part of the meal. Only the Vacherin aux Grenade with giant chunks of sweet meringue lived up to my Auberge expectations.
We have visited Wurst on King West more than any other restaurant in the past year. We bring everyone there because it’s the freaking best. A casual beer hall that’s always fun and their duck fat french fries are something I dream about on the regular. This also happens to be one of my favourite photos I’ve ever taken, featuring my husband, my mom and my dad.
30th birthday celebrations
Prince Edward County is my idea of heaven, and we spent the weekend there for my 30th birthday. From the sparking wines at Hinterland, dinner at the Drake Devonshire and Dan the Man’s brunch poutine at the Agrarian, I can’t pick what I loved more, but I gained about 10lbs that weekend.
I got married last week! An unabashedly romantic City Hall elopement and fancy dinner at Edulis for the win! Bottles of Champagne consumed? I lost count.
Cheers to another year of food, happiness and blogging.