As the year comes to a close, I got to thinking about the best culinary moments of 2010.
I sat down at tables from Dublin to Sicily to New York City this year, but a few moments of real culinary genius stand out from the rest. These were meals that I started craving the moment they were gone, that inspired me to try something new in my own kitchen, or that provided a memorable cultural experience. They are all worth a culinary pilgrimage, whether you have to cross the ocean or just hop on the subway to find them.
Gordon Ramsay at the Ritz Carlton Powerscourt, Ireland.
South of Dublin City Center, overlooking the Sugar Loaf Mountain in the Powerscourt Estate, is the Ritz Carlton Powerscourt. This past February I savored every bite of the surprise tasting menu. The stand-out moment of the meal was a lobster and salmon ravioli, finished at the table with a drizzle of sauce, fragrant with lemongrass.
Trattoria da Carmelo, Marina di Ragusa, Sicily.
A fantastic setting never hurts to make a meal especially memorable. In this case, it was a table on a breezy terrace with the Mediterranean lapping up on the beach below. However in almost any setting, the pasta with smoked prosciutto, mixed seafood, and chili would have been divine. Thick linguini was cooked perfectly and this meal passed the bread test: every plate was wiped clean with fresh, warm bread.
Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, outside of Oxford, England.
After watching chef Raymond Blanc on European TV I couldn’t wait to sample his creations at his Michelin-rated Le Manoir outside of Oxford. Our reservation for lunch was at 1pm, and we didn’t leave until 7pm after finishing petit fours and coffee in front of the fireplace. Hospitality here was exceptional; so were the innovative canapes and delicious variety of homemade breads.
Cork Wine Bar, Washington DC.
Some food lovers are adamant that they don’t share their dinner – but I think sharing can be one of the most romantic types of dinners. Cork Wine Bar serves tapas size portions – just enough for two people to share and sample a variety of dishes. The wine list here is immense – my knowledgeable server helped to select a wine that complemented our choices as well as a cheese plate to finish.
Scarpetta, New York City.
I may have waited 30 minutes to sit down for my 10pm reservation at Scarpetta, but the moment I nibbled on housemade focaccia, all was forgiven. This was one of those simply perfect meals, full of my favorite food, excellent wine, and great company. I tried not to fill up on the bread and uber-creamy polenta before my seared sea scallops arrived, and I somehow found room for venison and a chocolate cake at the end to top it all off.
Blantyre, Berkshires, Massachusetts.
This country house hotel put on a fantastic show from start to finish. The first canape I tasted was a roasted beet soup topped with goat cheese foam – and from that moment through the trio of chocolate – there was not a single misstep. Breakfast was just as stellar, with blueberry muffins to nibble on while looking at the menu. A restaurant always has me at the bread basket – and this one contained sourdough, beer, bacon, fennel, and other varieties that I couldn’t resist asking for seconds.
Momofuku Noodle Bar, East Village, New York City.
What you’ve heard about David Chang’s pork buns are true. They are sensational. I’ve never laid eyes upon pork so tender. Two generous slices of tender pork belly are stuffed inside a pillowy bun complete with scallions, cucumbers, and hoisin sauce. I enjoyed the noodle bowl as well, but I could see myself going out of my way – far out of my way – to munch on these pork buns again.
What were your culinary highlights of 2010, readers? Share your top moments below.
[Photo Credit - Momofuku pork bun by arndog on flickr]