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.
"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
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"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."
–Emma Laperruque, food writer & recipe developer
"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
"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!)
"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
"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
"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
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Just a few Mexico City highlights (1/2) (if you’re thinking about going, GO): iced tea speckled with dried fruit and flowers at a poetry cafe. @escarlatta’s albondigas and crunchy-melty grilled cheese with “prepared” (anchovy-shallot) butter at @cicatrizcafe. A grab bag of unreal Los Cocuyos tacos (campechano, maciza, longoniza). A good liter of alfalfa agua fresca with chia & pineapple. Thick, fermented, boozy pulque (I loved, Billy did not). Superfresh ceviche at a Peruvian stand at the Mercado San Juan, with bonus fish/scallion broth. Rosemary bun + every single pastry at @panaderiarosetta. The jungle gym vibes & generous, unpretentious service at mezcal bar Bósforo. Slow-cooked goat barbacoa tacos + bonus broth at El Hidalguense. Peeks into Frida Kahlo’s home and life at Casa Azul.
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"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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I loved the garlic shrimp here so much that I went back and ordered two, plus beer and a couple bowls of jasmine rice. Nothing else. I sat there and examined the shrimp, thought through how it was prepared and what I’d do at home to recreate it. The 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. 🦐🦐🦐🦐🦐
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"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
What was the best dish you ate anywhere in the world in 2018? Let us know in the comments!