The 13 Best Dishes We Ate Anywhere in the World in 2018

Oh yes, there's pasta. And chocolate. So much chocolate.

January 11, 2019

As food writers, editors, recipe developers, and test kitchen-ers, we at Food52 take our culinary tourism very seriously. Whether that means hopping on a subway, boarding an airplane (bring on the neck pillow!), driving for hours, or taking a trip through the pages of someone else's cookbook, we're constantly exploring new techniques, ingredients, and flavor combinations. It's essential to our work. (Also, can you imagine a more fun weekend work assignment? We can't!)

As we kick off the new year, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on our favorite bites from last year—whether near, far, composed, or licked from the back of a spoon. Let us know yours too, pretty please, in the comments, so we can add them to our "must try" lists for 2019.

Unlimited chocolate mousse from Cinq-Mars in Paris, France

"I took a lot of great trips in 2018 and ate a lot of wonderful things, but the mousse au chocolate à discrétion, or unlimited chocolate mousse, from Cinq-Mars is the one dish I can’t stop thinking about. I was somehow lucky enough to visit Paris twice last year and dined at Cinq-Mars both times. I made the colossal mistake of not getting the chocolate mousse the first time around (we were so. full.), but righted that wrong the second time. It’s thick, creamy, and extremely rich, but it’s ambrosia for anyone who likes chocolate (or knows what’s good for them). I did my very best to finish it—the serving is too much for even two people—but, alas, could not, and was deeply frowned at when I asked to take the rest home."

Joanna Sciarrino, executive editor

Cacio e pepe from Stanbury in Raleigh, North Carolina

"Am I totally biased to say the spaghetti cacio e pepe at my wedding? We got married at Stanbury, our favorite restaurant in Raleigh, had everyone sit wherever the heck they wanted, and served everything family-style. There were two types of pasta because: Why not? Don’t tell the other (love you so, charred cherry tomatoes, garlic, and anchovies!), but the cacio e pepe was my fave. At first everyone served it onto their plates, but fast-forward 15 minutes later and we were all eating it straight from the platter and shouting at the cooks across the room how amazing it was. I loved how such a simple recipe stripped away all formality and made everyone so unabashedly happy."

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Top Comment:
“those last two were the two new additions, and they totally make the dish rise above the everyday meal. i think, in retrospect, that i'll call it Hollis's Eternity Hotel Hash.”
— Hollis R.

Emma Laperruque, food writer & recipe developer

Emma says, "There's no clear shot of the pasta because we were being animals, so here are other photos from our wedding." Photo by Mark Maya

Pupusas from Sarita’s Pupuseria in Los Angeles, California

"I spent about two seconds in L.A. this past fall and crammed in as much good food in as possible. Absurdly good Mediterranean food and natural wine at Kismet, obligatory ricotta toast at Squirl…but the best thing I ate would definitely have to be the pupusas I got at Sarita’s Pupuseria in DTLA’s Grand Central Market. I accidentally ordered enough for like a family of four because the place I buy pupusas from in Brooklyn serves them up way smaller (and my brain couldn’t comprehend that something that big costs less than a latté). On the bright side, that means I got to try a few different flavors. The frijoles y queso was definitely my favorite."

Cory Baldwin, director of partner content

We'll take 15! Photo by Cory Baldwin

Tiger Prawns From Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon, Portugal

"Wow. This is like asking me to pick which of my children I like best! ('Children' is what I call my cheese-grater collection.) Can I do a top three? I'll do a top three. In third: All of the vitello tonnato in Piedmont. I was very lucky to get to visit that part of Northern Italy with my boyfriend Nate this past summer (TYSM, friends who got married nearby), and pretty much peaked, tonnato-wise. I've loved tonnato—a creamy, briny, tuna sauce made with anchovies (!!!) and capers (!!!)—for years, but having it in its birthplace was truly life-affirming. It's traditionally served over sliced veal, which is all well and good, but I found myself wanting to eat a giant bowl of it straight.

In second: The aglio e olio that popped up on the menu of my all-time favorite restaurant I Sodi earlier this year. It's such a dead-simple dish—garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt, cheese—and yet the execution of it is so fantastic, I think about it once a day. (I found the dish so revelatory, I even brought my fellow recipe developer Emma down to I Sodi one night to taste it!)

And in first, the grilled tiger prawns at Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisbon. They're extremely uncomplicated, and so, so good. Butter and salt have never tasted better—and that's saying a lot."

Ella Quittner, food writer & recipe developer (hi, it's me!)

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Love u prawns, love u butter and garlic

A post shared by Ella Quittner (@equittner) on

Chocolate Nemesis Cake from The River Café in London, United Kingdom

"The River Café in London is famous for its ever-evolving seasonal menu singing the glories of Italian regional cuisine. When a group of F52ers descended, we took our responsibility of making the most of our time there very seriously. Every single item was delicious, of course, but I think we'd all agree that sharing a slice of the signature Chocolate Nemesis Cake (served with a dollop of crème fraîche) was the highlight of the meal—if not entire trip!"

Hana Asbrink, senior lifestyle editor

L'Artusi's Mushroom Ragu from Food52 in New York, New York

"The best dish I ate in 2018 was actually super late in the year, and at work (Food52 HQ, New York, N.Y.). It was L'Artusi's Mushroom Ragu, made with humble cremini mushrooms, finely chopped and cooked down for a long time with tomato paste, and finished with a swirl of cream, a splash of dry white wine, and some sharp, nutty Parmesan or Grana Padano. It's a little labor-intensive (you pretty much have to stir constantly for 45ish minutes) but made with unfussy, easy-to-find ingredients, and definitely worth the love (and elbow grease) you end up putting in—the mushrooms take on this super intense, umami-rich, almost meaty flavor and texture, and the tomato paste adds warmth and depth to the whole dish. It’s definitely not JUST a mushroom-cream pasta. I made it for my partner's family for a holiday dinner (and managed to impress the pants off of them!), and then made it again for my family on New Year's Eve—2 pounds of pasta and 4 pounds of mushrooms disappeared pretty instantly."

Brinda Ayer, books & special projects editor

Ceviche from Mercado San Juan in Mexico City, Mexico

"I spent a week in Mexico City with my brother in April to celebrate the end of two years working on Genius Desserts and ate the best food of my 2018, and probably my life. The most memorable was at a Peruvian food stand in the Mercado San Juan—super fresh ceviche with lots of lime and a poodle puff of thinly sliced red onions piled on top. It came with a side of big crunchy corn nuts called canchas, and a bonus mug of fish broth with scallions and lime. We’d had an almost identical dish at a fancy destination restaurant the day before, but this one was fresher and much, much better (and the meal for three cost about $6)."

Kristen Miglore, creative director, genius

Spaghetti Homard-Lobster from Joe Beef in Montreal, Canada—& At Home!

"For a couple days last summer, I got the chance to cook in the kitchen at Joe Beef, a restaurant in Montreal. One of their signature dishes is a lobster pasta called spaghetti homard-lobster. The pasta features a lobster-infused cream sauce; it's really decadent and delicious. When I got back home to New York City, I cooked a version of their lobster pasta, but I made my own fresh pasta rather than using dried store-bought spaghetti. I really enjoyed serving this dish to my family—it gave them a little window into my experience cooking and learning at Joe Beef."

Josh Cohen, test kitchen director

Every Single Thing at Kuni in Gifu, Japan

"The absolute best meal I had this past year (and very possibly of all-time) was at a restaurant called Kuni in Gifu, Japan. It was a 10-course meal that incorporated a mix of funky Western-inspired dishes (a cherry tomato coated in a shell of caramel; foie gras-stuffed meringue) and more traditional Japanese fare (it was the first time I've had otoro, aka, fatty tuna, and is easily the best single bite of sushi I've ever encountered). The flavors were off the charts and everything was perfectly cooked, but more than anything, the meal was fun—you could tell how much the chefs enjoyed cooking everything and wanted the meal to be an experience for us (Exhibit A: the sashimi course was served atop a fishbowl)."

Connor Bower, social media manager

Pappardelle Limone from I Sodi in New York, New York

"The lemon pasta at I Sodi in N.Y.C. may not have actually been the best thing I ate, but it took me by such wonderful surprise that it's practically the only thing I remember eating in 2018. Its flavors and textures were simple—perfectly al dente pasta in a silky, nothing-but-lemon sauce—yet, it was so flawlessly executed that I ignored every other plate on our table. I dream about it still, and have tried to recreate it often (impossible), but I know I'll just have to go back to I Sodi (poor me) for another taste."

Erin Alexander, assistant editor of partner content

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I mean, kinda perfect. @ritasodi

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Chocolate croissant from Du Pain et Des Idées in Paris, France

"I ate a lot of great things in 2018. But one of my hands-down favorites was a chocolate croissant from Du Pain et Des Idées in Paris. I made my family walk two miles in muggy summer heat so we could try their famous escargots, but a slight mistranslation resulted in one of the chocolate beauties getting thrown in our bag. It was so flaky and buttery and warm that I still dream about it. Oh, how I miss you, little chocolate croissant. But we'll always have Paris."

-Katie Macdonald, assistant editor

Photo by Katie Macdonald

Garlic Shrimp from Kirin in Honolulu, Hawaii

"When I went to Hawaii for my birthday this year, I had the best shrimp I’ve ever had in my entire life at Kirin—which is the exact opposite of one of those cool holes-in-the-wall where locals eat. Maybe it’s because I was starving, straight off a 10-hour flight, or because I downed a whole beer before the food ever arrived. These shrimp are deveined, but their shells are still on, which means two things: The shells, slightly loosened, crisp up in the oil so you can eat them whole if you want; then, they’re probably finished in a sauce of minced garlic, maybe mirin, and soy until the sauce sort of caramelizes onto those chip-crisp shells, under which, of course, is the super fatty prawn meat. Definitely my most memorable bite in 2018. I tried to recreate them and came close, but I still want to make it back to Kirin in Honolulu for more."

Eric Kim, senior editor

Nachos made at home in Dutch Flat, California

"The dish from 2018 that’s stayed with me (not steak tartare or oysters) is a sky-high pile of nachos I made when I visited my family in Northern California. It was one of those cravings that comes on more like an ambush—and there wasn’t a jar of orange cheese in site. Did I mention my parents live in the middle of the forest? Luckily I'd found a recipe that involved only evaporated milk, a block of cheddar, and a dash of hot sauce. It left the jarred variety in the dust. I draped it (read: ladled) over fajita-style veggies and homemade refried black beans and guacamole and was promptly transported from my earthly body. Maybe it was empowering to make something that usually has 1,000 ingredients out of three. Or maybe I’d just gone too long without tortilla chips. Either way."

Maggie Slover, copywriter

Um. Maggie, can you make us this, please? (-Signed, everyone.) Photo by Maggie Slover

What was the best dish you ate anywhere in the world in 2018? Let us know in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Happygoin
  • Maggie
  • Hollis Ramsey
    Hollis Ramsey
  • Mika
  • Patricia Pe Lopes
    Patricia Pe Lopes
Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.


Happygoin January 17, 2019
Your executive editor, Joanna and I must live parallel lives...or something. As well as loving the French Liquid Soap from Trader Joe's (another column), I also love Cinq Mars in Paris. It's just behind the Orsay museum, and is a reliable address for a lovely, reasonably priced lunch after a morning in the museum. And yes, their chocolate mousse is sublime. Try to stop eating it. I dare you! :)
Maggie January 14, 2019
Best meal ever? My homemade Tambriya, straight from the pot with large chunks of a heated crusty white baguette for dipping. This recipe is an old family recipe, belonging to my Israeli husband's mom. Nothing better.
Maggie January 14, 2019
Best meal ever? My homemade Tambriya, straight from the pot with large chunks of a heated crusty white baguette for dipping. This recipe is an old family recipe, belonging to my Israeli husband's mom. Nothing better.
Hollis R. January 14, 2019
would you mind sharing the Tambriya recipe?
Maggie January 14, 2019
I'd be delighted! I don't know if my characters are limited, so let me know if anything is unclear.
About 3-5 lbs if an inexpensive thin cut beef steak with the bone and riddled with fat. It will be cooking for a long time and you don't want it to disintegrate. The bone adds a lot of flavor over a long cook. So, in summary, you're looking for about 4 lbs of steak that is cheap, fat and tough. -- sounds like the early lines of a 50's detective novel. The meat needs to be cut into 2" strips. Approximate. No need to get crazy here.
3 med onions, halved and cut into similar strips
About 8 tomatoes cut the same
About 8 red peppers cut the same.
About 2 rounded tablespoons of chopped garlic.
Salt, pepper and about 3 shot glasses of cumin (If others can use football fields as a matrix I can use a shot glass)
Olive oil for sauteing
2 32oz containers of beef broth. I need to pause here for commentary. In the original recipe, my brother-in-law, Yitzhak told me to use chicken broth (from packets) and water. I changed that to cans (or cartons) of beef broth. Lately, in my stew recipes I am combining beef broth and chicken broth. The all beef is a denser taste while the combo seems to play up all of the individual flavors more. So you can actually use beef beef or beef chicken or chicken chicken.
Yitzhak also added 1/2 glass orange juice. I omit that.
After you have spent way too much time cutting everything in your kitchen into 2 " strips, add olive oil to stock pot and saute beef strips first with bones. According to Yitzhak, never saute the onions first, because it breaks down the structure of the beef too soon.
Saute to brown on high heat about 5 to 10 minutes
Remove beef from pot and add onions. Saute on med heat until soft.
Add garlic stir. And immediately add tomatoes, peppers, sauteed beef, and broth. Stir to combine and cover.
Stir ever few minutes, for about the first 30 - 60 minutes , until the tomatoes are starting to cook down.
Now add the pepper, salt and cumin. Stir to combine.
All of this is going to cook for another 4-5 hours.
Stir often. At every point - from sauteing to conclusion, make sure nothing is ever stuck to the bottom. Adjust seasonings along the way. I usually add another shot of cumin along the way. Add salt at the table.
I usually serve in bowls with warmed baguettes, copious amounts of wine and lots of silly conversation
Hollis R. January 14, 2019
oh, Maggie, this is MY kind of recipe. i'm kvelling! i love the commentary about the broths and OJ, too. perhaps some wide strips of orange peel? i also love the long cooking time -- it's perfect for my cast-iron Dutch oven! shot-glass measurements, i'm used to -- learned some recipes from my Russian-born Bubbe Golde. i'm reluctant to let any recipe go without adjustments, let's say. what i don't see in your Tambriya is any fresh green herb. do you have any thoughts on that? i always jump to parsley, but what with the copious amounts of cumin (i have seeds, and a mortar and pestle, so i'm likely to toast and grind at least part of it), i'm thinking maybe cilantro, which i adore. i usually throw serranos or jalapenos in everything, but i'm hesitant to change the flavor of the Tambriya too much. again, thoughts? btw, how big a pot will i need? my Dutch oven is medium-sized, not TOO large, but not too small -- Momma Bear size. thanks again!
Hollis R. January 14, 2019
p.s. when you say "remove beef," do you mean for the bones to be left in the pot throughout the entire cooking process?
Maggie January 15, 2019
Hi. My husband's family bible has his family tree in the fly leaf, and they trace back about 900 years. In their collective folk memories of about six generations they never remember being without this recipe or their recipe for tahina. Using seasoning papers for the chicken broth has got to be Itzakh, but the rest I treated as a relic of sorts and kept pretty much the same. Once I forgot to put in the Orange juice and neither my husband not I could taste the difference, so I left it out from then on. Orange peels sounds like a good idea. I'm definitely trying that in my next batch ( which I am asked for on an almost daily basis). Since the recipe is so old, you are most certainly on track with hand ground and toasted cumin. I don't think McCormick had locked down their Mideast distributorship n the 1200's. Parsley is also put in almost every recipe I have from Itzakh so that too is a good idea and probably historically correct. In nine of their recipes are any peppers with a heat element. This might have been personal taste, but I suspect it's more likely tradition. As for the pot, I usually use my largest stock pot. The sheet bulk of the peppers and tomatoes before they cook down is daunting. I'm thinking Papa Bear. And yes. The bones stay in until you are ready to serve. Please let me know when you try it. I don't if it's ten years from now. I always love hearing any reaction to this recipe. BTW I have spent a considerable amount of time searching the internet for this recipe. It just is not out there. Amazing, huh? Enjoy!

Maggie January 15, 2019
Seasoning packets. Not papers.
Hollis R. January 15, 2019
thanks for the feedback. i might have to cut the Tambriya in half, since i'm only cooking for one. unless you have suggestions, i'll research the kind of hot peppers that would be used for this type of dish. and so parsley, okay. it sounds Persian, so LOTS of parsley. and yes to the orange peel, too. it reminded me of those little Persian dried limes.

now i'm going to have to request -- humbly -- that Tahina recipe you mentioned ...
Hollis R. January 14, 2019
i make this frequently, but the last two times, i added somethings extra, and that transported it to the 10-star Eternity Hotel of my dreams. it's so special that i -- who have a penchant for naming everything -- can't think of a name for it ... yet.

chop a red onion and two fat jalapenos (unseeded!) and throw in your beloved 12" cast-iron skillet that's been heated to Med. and readied with a heaping Tbls. of melted lard. a few stirs to get the veggies coated, then on to the next layer: a half-pint of halved cherry tomatoes scattered on top; another couple of stirs. top that with one 16-oz. can of yellow hominy (drained), and stir again. finally, top with your meat of choice -- i used two sliced beef franks because that's what i had, but i think that next time i'll try some kind of sausage or maybe even bacon -- pancetta would be nice, or guaciale. a few more stirs to incorporate everything, then let it go a few minutes to get a nice char on it, soften up the tomatoes somewhat, and get those onions and peppers mildly crunchy. then sprinkle as generous a handful of za'atar as you'd like (i'm EXTREMELY generous, about a heaping Tblsp. worth) over the mess, and incorporate. turn off the heat, then add as much chopped cilantro as you love (again, a lot), and finish with about 3-4 oz. of sour cream. those last two were the two new additions, and they totally make the dish rise above the everyday meal. i think, in retrospect, that i'll call it Hollis's Eternity Hotel Hash.
Mika January 12, 2019
Watalappan in Sri Lanka! Watlappan is a flan made from coconut milk, cashews, and treacle tapped from kithul flowers. Hands down the most delicious thing I have ever eaten in my life.
Ella Q. January 14, 2019
Wow, sounds delicious!!! Can't wait to try one day.
Patricia P. January 12, 2019
Guys! You need to know there's food on South Hemisphere!!! Please share some! ;)
Cory B. January 14, 2019
If the question had been "best meal ever" instead of "best thing you ate this year" the ceviche from Al Toke Pez in Lima DEFINITELY would have been in the running! Dying to get back there to explore more.
Melissa C. January 11, 2019
I want the recipes for ALLLLL of these things (especially the chocolate mousse!) And Emma, Stanbury is one of my favorite restaurants of all the times; I try to go there whenever I visit my company's office in Raleigh. So, SO good.
Sandy January 26, 2019
Are any of these recipes in your cookbook?
HalfPint January 11, 2019
Most memorable meal of 2018 was a Nashville's Henrietta Red. It was my BFF's 40th birthday trip with "the girls". Oysters on the half shell were scrumptious (of course), but the most memorable dish that I ate was a panfried trout served with raw sunchokes dressed in a lemon vinaigrette. I've never had any interest in sunchokes (aka Jerusalem artichokes) and this was a revelation. I now have a new favorite vegetable (?).
Ella Q. January 14, 2019
Sounds like a wonderful meal! Mm, that trout must've been incredible.