For years now, come December and I’m yearning for January. Its sobriety and down-to-earthness appeal to me tremendously once the bacchanals of the last month of the year progress to hysterical heights.
I think they did good when they chose January as the first month of the year: days are getting visibly longer, everybody’s resolving to improve and approaching the future with sensible planning. None of that is just as sweet without asserting the good stuff of the past year. Here’s my list, then, of the most impressive meals I’ve had in 2018 outside the home – in no particular order, common denominator being good quality, delicious food.
1. Best breakfast: hopper, string hoppers and Sri Lankan curries at Kandalama Hotel, Sri Lanka
Also, there was my resolution of January 2018 to try to make pol sambol back home, which, sadly, I never did. Not sticking to own resolutions sucks. I’m putting it on the list for 2019 with an exlamation mark!
Second best breakfast: Sri Lankan fresh fruit
No need to say tropical fruit tastes so much better in the tropics.
2. Best knoedel/sweet dumpling: Doellerer’s Wirtshaus in Goelling, Austria
The green thing? Sorrel ice-cream. Yeah, I know.
Second best knoedel/dumpling: dinkel a.k.a. spelt dough, Eve Alps, St. Oswald / Bad Kleinkirchheim Ski Resort, Austria
3. Best aperitivo: puntarelle and anchovy crostino barside in one of Vatican’s bars (do you say Vatican is in Italy or is Vatican = Vatican?)
Don’t you just love aperitivo time in Italy?
4. Best lunch in an Alpine hut: beef tartare in Restaurant Schaufelspitz, Stubai Gletscher, Austria
Skiing boots on, enjoying the crackling fireplace, tablecloth & proper napkin, a glass of an organic red, white slopes outside the window – a bliss.
5. Best restaurant lunch at Debeluh in Brežice, Slovenia
Nice place, friendly (and knowledgeable) staff, wonderful food. On the go-to-again list for 2019.
6. Best trattoria lunch at Sostanza in Florence, Tuscany (for the umpteenth time and just as good as ever)
Where do I start? Everything is very good here: the vegetables drowned in olive oil and trippa alla fiorentina which we have every time – no exception to the rule.
Second best trippa: La Matriciana dal 1870 in Rome, Italy
Pasta and tiramisu were very good too. Lovely traditional atmosphere.
7. Best Chinese meal: dimsum galore at Chinalive Marketplace in San Francisco, California, USA
Meat, particularly veal, is delicious in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Second best: Restoran Kula, Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina
When not barbecued (as in Bašča kod Ene above), veal is mostly cooked under a metal dome (sač) over the open fire together with some vegetables. That way it retains juiciness and flavour.
9. Best seafood lunch at Ristorante Menegaldo in Pralongo, Veneto, Italy
Old-fashionably elegant setting offering superb seafood. Worth every detour.
Second best seafood lunch at Ristorante Scabar in Trieste, Italy
Run by brother and sister power-team (she’s in charge of the kitchen, he knows of every imaginable wine) it never disappoints.
10. Best cake: lemon meringue cake at Tartine Bakery, San Francisco, California, USA
Second best cake: lemon drizzle cake from Gayle’s in Capitola, California, USA. Best detail: eaten straight from the box leaning on the wall overlooking the Pacific Ocean
11. Best ice-cream in the whole world: Sorbetteria Castiglione in Bologna, Italy
We make a detour in the summer’s heat just for these delicious scoops of old-school, creamy, dense delight of an ice-cream (which I’m not a fan of generally speaking).
Second best ice-cream: Maki in Fano, Marche, Italy
So good we came back the next day for more. The young(ish) couple moved to Fano from Milan, the big city, you know, to start their ice-cream business and they love it living the slow(er) life in Italian seaside town.
12. Best (rarely consumed) pastrami: Wise Sons Deli in Mission, San Francisco, California, USA (of course).
Where else would one have a pastrami sandwich if not in the US? Pickles, slaw, fries and mimosa (cheers!) just as memorable.
13. Best soup: red lentil soup at Haci Abdullah, off Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul, Turkey
I’m a sucker for soup as anybody ever living with me would confirm.
14. Best barbecue: bistecca fiorentina and the lot at Il Sassone, Maremma, Tuscany, Italy
I could go on and on about this place. Beautiful setting, splendid views, welcoming staff and outstanding meals.
15. Best dinner at Klinec in Plešivo, Goriška Brda, Slovenia
This was a complete surprise: wonderful place, hands-on service, perfect food. Not to mention the countryside: marvellous.
16. Best seafood dinner at Restaurant Badi in Lovrečica, Istria, Croatia
On repeat during summer now that we discovered this long-time establishment tastefully and carefully made over by the next generation.
17. Best hotel dinner(s): Hotel Jagdhof in Neustift, Tirol, Austria
It’s the best place, really. Cosy, elegant, spectacular. Service and food exceptional.
Uncategorised but somehow fitting into this outside-the-home meal list:
- Coconut break by the roadside in Sri Lanka
- Best coffee overall: anywhere in Italy
Worst coffee overall (although improving): anywhere in the USA
- First time eaten: mochi! Given to me by a friendly Facebook employee in Silicon Valley and it was a revelation. Best, best, best ever!