This year has been a whirlwind. I’ve traveled to amazing places, met incredible people and eaten some gosh darn good food. I thought it would be hard to narrow it down to 10 dishes, but when I sat down to brainstorm it took no time for the food memories to come flooding back. From Atlanta to Ventimiglia, this list is full of international and eclectic comfort foods.
- Cornflake crusted chicken (L’Office, Paris) – I must be behind the curve in creative chicken frying techniques because the cornflake crusted chicken at L’Office opened my eyes and taste buds. Served with a green Thai curry sauce and seasonal vegetables, each crunchy bite was pure heaven. Sadly, my photo gives it zero justice. I have yet to experiment this recipe on my own, but it’s definitely on my 2014 to-do!
- Duck fat fried Brussels sprouts (Local Three, Atlanta) – The menu at Local Three describes its Brussels sprouts starter as “a new beginning” and I couldn’t say it better myself. With the leafy green vegetable burning up the scene these days, it was refreshing to bite into a new flavor. Smothered in a mystery Asian sauce, these Brussels sprouts are the real deal. The duck fat calories don’t count, right?
- “Bakesale Betty” sandwich (Verjus Sandwich, Paris) – Imagine a fancy, 15 euro Chick-fil-A sandwich on crack. That’s the “Bakesale Betty” at Verjus. In the basement-turned-wine-bar of one of Paris’ finest restaurants, you will find this divine fried chicken sandwich topped with cabbage slaw with shallots and parsley and spicy mustard vinaigrette and served on a perfectly fluffy bun. Thou must devour it on a bench in the nearby Jardin du Palais-Royal. I have rain and shine. Boom. Perfection.
- Socca (Chez Pipo, Nice) – Socca is a traditional chickpea pancake found in the South of France. Cheap, savory and satisfying, socca from the popular Chez Pipo is served with bowls of tartinade. These spreads come in several flavors such as eggplant and sun-dried tomato, pepper and tomato, artichoke and olive tapenade. Mmm, mmm, très bon. And budget-friendly!
- L’Éclair à la vanille voix de pécan (L’Éclair de Genie, Paris) – It isn’t fair to pick just one éclair flavor to highlight, but the vanilla cream and caramelized pecan éclair from L’Éclair de Génie is that phenomenal. The creamy vanilla filling tastes like it was just scraped fresh from the bean and the caramelized pecans add a delicious, crunchy texture on top. After sampling several of the shop’s confections, I vote for this one.
- Farm egg (Miller Union, Atlanta) – I have yet to announce Miller Union as my new, favorite restaurant in Atlanta. Chef Steven Satterfield takes the overused “farm-to-table” term to a true and unique level. I’m lucky to work closely with him and the restaurant and to have sampled some of his exceptional cooking. Upon dining there for the first time, I fell in love with one of his very popular dishes: the farm egg. Baked in celery cream and served with grilled bread, the starter is unexpected and amazing. I mean, what’s more comforting then a runny egg, cream and bread to soak it up? Rien.
- Fried goat cheese balls (Ecco, Atlanta) – I’m a sucker for goat cheese. The combination of creamy and tangy just can’t be beat. At Ecco, one of my new Atlanta favorites, the fried goat cheese balls are consistently applauded. Served with honey and pepper, there’s sweet and spice in every bite. And hello, it’s F-R-I-E-D…
- Cherries (France) – Never had I ever bitten into a fresh cherry until this past summer in France. I was skeptical to take my first bite, but life turned upside down when I did. Sadly, we Americans are stuck with overly-sugared, red-dyed “cherries”. Skip the Shirley Temple and fly to France just for a bite. I would.
- Mussels (Bordeaux) – I thought I had ordered good moules frites on my trip along the Côte d’Azur in April but then I went to Bordeaux. I’ll never forget the steaming pot of mussels at Bistro Poulette at the Marché des Capucins that my mom and I had for lunch when visiting. Served with a traditional white wine sauce or special “poulette” sauce made of fish stock, cream and lemon, our two pots brimming with fresh mussels and delicious steam. The best part? Soaking up the excess sauce with perfectly crisp frites. Oh la la, food nostalgia…
- Fresh pasta (La Pergola, Ventimiglia) – The most memorable moments (and meals) are often unexpected. This was the case when my friends and I were in Nice and impulsively hopped on a train to Italy for lunch. After exploring the beachside town of Ventimiglia, we found a charming Italian restaurant for lunch. La Pergola was the epitome of Italian, family-style cuisine. We each chose a pasta and our waiter brought a communal bowl of house made bolognese sauce to share. Topped with the freshest, softest parmesan I’ve ever tasted, the pasta was simple yet extraordinary. I’ll never forget this meal.
Here’s to full bellies and delicious meals in 2014, y’all!