The best thing about travelling is obviously the food you get to try. And the beaches, and the freedom, and the people watching, new friends, beautiful sunsets, etc etc.
But for today’s purpose, let’s stick with the food.
I’ve had some horrible food experiences – we’ll save that for another post – but as my travels for the year round up and I’m attempting to sort all my photos out, I thought I’d take a look back at my favourite food experiences from 2015.
Some are entire countries – I couldn’t choose – but others are taste sensations that have stayed on the buds long after I’ve paid the cheque, or la quinta as I’ve come to enjoy saying in Spanish-speaking countries.
1. All the sushi in Japan
One of the reasons behind going to Japan for five weeks in January was to eat sushi all day, every day. It ended up being the cheapest and easiest meal to find. My favourite place, in all the time I was there, was a little place just round the corner from the Ryogoku Kokugikan (the sumo wrestling stadium). You could get a huge plate of freshly rolled sushi, made right in front of you, for less than £5. I’d just choose the lunch deal which came with green tea, miso sauce and as much soy and wasabi as you could take.
You’d sit around the island in the middle while the sushi chefs – who’d spent at least 10 years of their lives training up – would screech “‘irashaimase” in welcome and goodbyes to anyone who visited.
Eating sushi in Japan has ruined me, no sushi I’ve had since has come close.
2. Yonezawa steak in Japan
Oh gawd, the steak.
There I was minding my own business in Shimokitazawa, a district of Tokyo. My friend who’d lived there for two years said I’d enjoy the vintage shopping and he was right. I was worn out from rummaging through the vintage – woe is me. And then I spied this place on the corner. It was only meant to be a red wine to warm up from the a January in Japan, but then I saw the steak in front of the person next to me and instinctively ordered it.
It was so tender, so light, and so beautifully cooked. Those Yonezawa cows sure are tasty.
3. Breakfast from a coconut in the Philippines
Again, totally spoiled by travel. My breakfast on a desert island in the Philippines was as far from your average 2-minute microwaveable breakfast Quaker oats as you can get, on the spectrum of porridge. It took me a while to register that the ‘Lost Boys’ as they called themselves, on my Tao Philippines cruise, were climbing the coconut trees for us and not just to have fun. And as soon as I realised they were going to put the porridge in the coconut shells, with fresh mango alongside, I was giddy with excitement.
I think this has to be the best food experience of the year, not the best food, but definitely experience.
Oh, and the fresh prawn and rice lunch on the first day. But I’ve already written about that, and the fish dinner aboard the boat too. Just do the Tao Experience, I loved it.
4. Yab Yum food in India
Never, have I ever, had so many meals at the same restaurant. The food at Yab Yum Resorts Hotel in Goa was so incredible; we ate there a ridiculous amount of times. From the best paneer I’d ever had, to the best cauliflower in the world and Keralan prawn curry, and just look at that Thali (little bowls). Between my friends and I we tried 35 of the 72 things on the menu.
And while we’re on India, Leopolds, the restaurant / bar from the book Shantaram, was too delicious for words. And for a photo apparently, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. We had paneer, biryani, naan, curry, and every mouthful was a taste sensation. I’d go back to Mumbai just to go there, maybe.
5. All the food in Israel
If I had to pick one food experience from Israel it would be the breakfast at Mendeli Street Hotel, I was honestly amazed at how many delicious vegetarian dishes there were. It made me think that if I really, really had to, I could possibly be vegetarian. As long as the chefs came to live with me that is. I vowed to get an Israeli food cookbook and learn to create everything, but I still haven’t.
Israeli food is my foodie heaven. After getting nice and lean from four months in Asia, it was Israel that got me back on the slippery road to chubster. Which is strange, because it’s all so healthy. Not when you douse it in as much sauce as I do though, or scoop it all up in a pita.
Read more about my trip to Israel – loved it!
6. Fig restaurant taster menu at Santa Monica Fairmont
In June I went on one of the best press trips that there ever was, driving the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to LA. Have you seen me drive much? No? That’s because I’ve only done it once since I moved to London in 2008, in a Nissan Micra, and then 7 years later I decided it would be a great idea to traverse the 7-lane highways of LA in a Mustang all by myself.
The Fairmont marked the end of the 5-day trip / 500 mile trip. I’d survived and I’d earned my dinner that night.
So back to the food. That final night of the incredible trip was spent at The Fairmont looking out onto Santa Monica Beach, on Wilshire Boulevard. We had a taster dinner at the hotel’s FIG restaurant – the ‘Feed Me’ Menu. Every mouthful was something fancy and sensational – above you can see the Fig and Truffle Toast with Aged Balsamic, Pecorino and Tuscan Summer Truffles. Ar yes. The wine was flowing, the company was excellent and I knew all I had to do to get home was go up in the lift to my sea view room with oversized bed. What a dream.
7. Gaudi menu in an attic in Barcelona
When I was in Israel I was told about the ‘Gaudi Experience’ with EatWith in Barcelona. A 7-course menu tailored with Gaudi in mind, both in content and creation. They’d taken his love of towers and curves and rolled with it, as well as having a little story behind every aspect. It helped that it all took place in a super cool attic in Sant Antoni, complete with wine with every course. I treated my brother too the evening, seeing as I was staying at his just round the corner.
– I have a whole post on my Gaudi experience with EatWith in Barcelona, if you care enough to click.
8. Picnic in Paris
Sometimes you don’t need all the fanciness of a meal out. One of my favourite experiences of the year was my old friend and housemate, Kellie, agreeing to join me in Paris on a long weekend jaunt. After about two years of not seeing each other, and a lot of stories for each of us to tell, our picnic lunch – courtesy of going wild in the aisles at Monoprix – under the Eiffel Tower was a definite 2015 food experience highlight.
9. Lobster dinner in Cuba
– not the lobster, but a lobster I had in Cuba once nonetheless
We stayed at a great hotel in Cuba, the Iberostar, and I couldn’t fault the food. So we booked into the Cuban restaurant on site for our last to final night, excited at how they would wow us in there if the usual restaurant was as good as it was.
As apparently 50% of the menu was unavailable we ended up with what looked and tasted like chicken bones and cold mash on our plates. We were not amused. We didn’t even stay for dessert, going back to the main restaurant instead. Compared to the rest of our experience at the Ibersotar it was rubbish so mum complained. Cue a litre of Havana Club in apology, and an invite to go back again tomorrow for a ‘special dinner’.
When they wheeled out the lobster, with chicken fillets and an array of sauces and vegetables our eyes and tastebuds piqued. The other diners stared at our platters and back to their chewy chicken bones, we felt bad, but scoffed it down anyway, lobster chunk by lobster chunk. It was the perfect end to a brilliant holiday. Well done mum.
I loved Cuba, but it didn’t live up to what I thought Cuba would be like.
10. Sauerkraut and bratwurst in Munich
– photo from sheknows.com, didn’t have time to take one with the speed I gobbled them down
I ate sauerkraut and bratwurst for three days running in Munich. It was cheap and delicious. At Oktoberfest others were on the traditional pork knuckle but I was addicted to the bratwurst. The perfect fuel for a stein-fuelled day.
11. Truffle and mushroom gnocchi with ham in Italy
We’d been cycling for about 2 hours and hunger was calling. My friend Chloe and I didn’t really know what we wanted or what we were looking for but we knew we were in Italy and wanted something delicious to fuel us for the 30km journey back. Cue a cute little trattoria in Sirmione, a town round Lake Garda. I had truffle and mushroom gnocchi with ham. What do the Italians do to food to make it so delicious? Don’t tell me, probably involves all kinds of delicious things I shouldn’t eat.
You might wander what the deal is with the photo. Well, I didn’t have time to take a photo of the meal above in all the delicious revelry, so here’s another tasty dish I enjoyed in Italy. A smorgasbord of pig along with some of the best Buffalo mozzarella I’ve ever had. And you see that drink up there, it’s a Negroni, they’re lethal.