“People are so worried about what they eat between Christmas and the New Year, but they really should be worried about what they eat between the New Year and Christmas.”
So here we are, on the final day of 2013. If 2012 was the year we Londoners basked in the glow of the Olympics then 2013 was the hangover that followed the party – a long and trying year for so many people. Sometimes it’s easy to become fixated on the negatives and the hardships of the past year while forgetting to appreciate the good bits. So in the spirit of positivity I have taken the unusual step of planning a series of “2013 in review posts” focusing on the year’s food and travel highlights. Today we’re kicking off with my top 7 culinary experiences of 2013 – dishes eaten between New Year and Christmas 2013 that I did not make myself but that have lived on in my memory ever since they passed my lips. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Foie gras creme brulée with butter-roasted lobster at Duck and Waffle in London. It’s hard to describe this without drowning in a sea of superlatives. Imagine silken foie gras purée the consistency of a normal creme brulée, topped with a sliver of a caramelised crust and a few juicy chunks of lobster. It was as if all my Christmases came at once.
2. Tortellini filled with cheese fonduta in chestnut purée with shaved black truffles at Club Moritzino in the Dolomites (La Villa, South Tyrol). Ski past at 4pm and Club Moritzino at the top of the La Villa telecabine seems like any other mountain hut, with dance music playing and punters drinking Aperol spritz in their ski boots on the terrace. But come back for dinner and you will find some very fine dining indeed at 2,100 metres above sea level. These tortellini were an Autumnal dream – rich, earthy, creamy, decadent and satisfying.
3. Foie gras poached in Muscadet wine at L’Atlantide, Nantes. Why does everybody not cook foie gras like this? The flavours of the wine had infused every morsel of the liver, adding a slight sweetness and an acidity to balance the fattiness. Heaven.
4. Roquefort macarons with rancio jelly a reduction made with pickled walnuts and Lagavulin whiskey at Club Gascon in London. Yes, it sounds like an unlikely combination. But trust me – it works; oh baby it works! Fluffy and light Roquefort cream filling makes a surprisingly perfect foil for the sweet macarons; and the sticky, smoky undertones of that sauce had me wanting to lick the plate when nobody was looking.
5. Kueh pie tee at hawker centres around Singapore. Everyone tells you about the chill crab in Singapore. Nobody tells you about these babies: thin and crispy pastry shells filled with a spicy, sweet mixture of thinly sliced vegetables and prawns which you can top with a spicy chilli sauce. Sweet, sour, salty, crispy and adorable to boot. It was love at first bite.
6. Lemon Meringue 2.0 at The Restaurant at Waterkloof, Somerset West (Cape Town, South Africa). Take the basic elements of a lemon meringue and get playful – which is exactly what chef Gregory Czarnecki does here. Vanilla ice cream and tuille; a creamy lemon jelly strip; lemon sorbet and macaron; and Italian meringue. Pretty as a picture and delightfully fresh.
7. Sea bass with cauliflower, croutons and hazelnuts at Restaurant 101 at One & Only The Palm, Dubai. What’s not to like about this dish? Buttery, flaky fish; creamy cauliflower purée; textural interest from the crispy croutons and toasted hazelnuts; and flashes of colour from the purple cauliflower florets, all served on a deck overlooking the aquamarine water.
So that’s my list – what were the best things YOU ate in 2013? Let me know in the comments! Stay tuned for my reviews of my own recipes of 2013 and my 2013 travel tales – but for now, I want to thank each and every reader of this site for their continued enthusiasm, comments and support throughout 2013. Without you, there could be no Cooksister. I wish each and every one of you a healthy, happy, peaceful and prosperous 2014.
HAVE A DELICIOUS NEW YEAR!