Best Meals of 2012

After a year of traveling and eating, it’s time to reflect.

My best meals in 2012 all share a few common threads: the food was both delicious and a bit surprising, passionate servers/chefs enhanced the quality of the meal, and I’m still thinking about it in 2013. With Chinatown only a handful of blocks from my new apartment, a few jaunts to Europe, and some time spent exploring domestically, 2012 was one delicious year. Here are my best meals of the past year.

Manfreds, Copenhagen

When I dream of travel, that picture often includes a long midday meal with bottles of wine and lots of laughter. In 2012 I found this meal at Manfreds in Copenhagen. After working up an appetite exploring the city on foot, I arrived in Manfreds ready to eat whatever the chef put in front of me. The table filled with salads, addicting bread, “the world’s best anchovies”, beef tartare, roasted pork, and one fabulous egg dish. As each plate found its way to the table, we somehow found more room for just one more bite.

IMG_1847Babbo, New York City

It was a merry little Christmas this year at a New York classic restaurant, Babbo. Instead of fighting for reservations a month in advance, we arrived at 5pm on a Sunday night looking for two seats at the bar. Even this early, we nabbed the final two and after the perfect negroni, started to tuck into the tasting menu. Babbo may not be new, but the pappardelle with chanterelles and thyme is pasta perfection.

777, Dublin

During my multiple trips back to Dublin each year, I’m always excited to see what’s new and noteworthy in the dining scene. This year, my favorite meal was at 777, a sultry space inspired by vibrant Mexico City. After snagging a couple seats at the bar (complete with comfortable padded backs) we ordered a cocktail — 777 has Dublin’s widest selection of tequila. One of my favorite ways to eat, we nibbled our way through the menu, devouring carnitas tacos and tuna tostados.

IMG_1732Fort Reno, Brooklyn

On a spectacular spring day, I hopped the subway to interview Chef Jacques Gautier. Minutes after arrival, I was climbing a steep ladder to the rooftop garden on top of his restaurant, Palo Santo. Next we walked down Union Street to his new place, a casual barbeque spot called Fort Reno. Nothing could taste better on this sunny Friday afternoon than a slab of St. Louis-style ribs, collard greens, and cornbread.

Virginia Oysters, Eastern Shore

In November, I traveled to the Eastern Shore of Virginia in search of one thing: oysters. I tasted freshly shucked bivalves from all of Virginia’s 7 oyster regions, comparing each bite for its salinity, rich flavor, and hint of sweetness. Some of the best I tasted were at Chatham Vineyards, at an annual event called “Terroir and Merroir” where oyster farmers from the region serve up their oysters aside local wine. The oysters were served with tasting notes, helping guests to differentiate the flavors.

IMG_2109Forgione, New York City

In my new neighborhood of Tribeca, there are many things to love. There’s Zuckers bagels, burgers from Tiny’s, cocktails from Ward III, and for a nice occasion, Forgione. The warmly lit space with its exposed brick walls and buzz from the attached bar is perfect for a date spot. One of my single best bites of the entire year was the first taste of a thick, juicy pork chop from the kitchen at Forgione. Desserts here are wonderful too.

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