The 12 Best Things I Ate in 2012
If you’ve been reading this site for any amount of time, you know that I tend to go a bit crazy when food is around. I adore food and eating my way through new places is one of my absolute favorite parts of traveling.
I ate SO well this year — but what were the best dishes of all? I decided to round up the top 12. When I started narrowing down the foods of 2012 for this post, I kept a tissue nearby to wipe up the resulting saliva. By the time I finished, I had a beach towel.
Behold: the 12 best things I ate in 2012!
12. Čevapćiki in Sarajevo, Bosnia
The first item on my list is a bit of an oddball. I hate raw onions and have never been able to tolerate them — excluding this surprising dish. It’s just pita bread, meat (most likely veal), and loads of raw onions, but these three ingredients together unlock something magical. I found myself craving čevapćiki!
Where to get it: You can find these all over Bosnia and the Balkans. It’s pronounced CHEV-up-CHEE-kee. You’ll never pay more than 5 marks ($3) for one.
11. Rocambolesc Gelato in Girona, Spain
I’ve waxed poetic about this gelato before. Rocambolesc does some of the best and definitely the most creative gelato I’ve ever seen. My apricot gelato was topped with mandarin syrup, green tea cake, and a fior de coco. Absolutely outstanding — and it’s not every day that you get served ice cream by one of the world’s best chefs!
Where to get it: Rocambolesc is in the heart of Girona, right by the Eiffel Bridge. A cone like this will set you back €4 ($5) or so.
10. Pastels de Nata in Evora, Portugal
I became a bit of a caffeine addict in Portugal this year, taking every chance I got to stop for an espresso. Why? For the accompanying pastels de nata, the creamy egg tarts that are a staple of the Portuguese diet! I had a few dozen of these over the course of my month in Portugal, but the very best one was at a cafe in Évora.
Where to get it: Pastels de nata are in every cafe and bakery in Portugal. I can’t remember the name of this cafe, but it was a bright, modern cafe right on the main square in Évora. You’ll pay about €1 ($1.20) each.
9. Arbroath Smokie in Arbroath, Scotland
What is a smokie? A haddock that is gutted, dried and smoked in the Scottish town of Arbroath — and probably the best fish I have ever tasted. We stopped here on the way back from Shetland and each picked up a smokie, which we held and ate like an ice cream cone. I’ve never tasted fish so rich and flavorful.
Where to get it: We stopped at M&M Spink in Arbroath. The costs vary based on weight, but I definitely didn’t pay more than £3 ($4.50).
8. Lamb Steak with Fermented Lamb Salt in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands
Salt is often the ingredient that makes the biggest difference in a dish. As for salt made from fermented lamb, it elevated this dish to 11! If there is any way to get a dish to go from tasty to life-changing, just add a dash of fermented lamb salt. I had this as one of the delicious, creative courses at KOKS, the most acclaimed restaurant in the Faroe Islands.
Where to get it: KOKS is located in the Hotel Føroyar in the capital of Tórshavn. The restaurant offers four/six/eight-course menus for 460/680/850 kroner ($82/122/152).
7. Skyrcake in Reykjavik, Iceland
Icelanders love their skyr — a thick, tart yogurt. I settled into the funky Laundromat Cafe for a working afternoon and ordered a coffee and a skyrcake. Pieces of cookies draped in layers upon layers of skyr and topped with lush, juicy berries and white chocolate chunks? The menu boasted the dish’s healthiness; I just marveled at how delicious it was!
Where to get it: The Laundromat Cafe is in downtown Reykjavik. The skyrcake costs 850 ISK ($7).
6. Post-Dessert Dessert in Constantia, South Africa
After indulging in quail velouté, veal steak, and a bizarre passion fruit, pink foam, and meringue dessert at La Colombe in Constantia, the heart of South African wine country, I thought I was done. And then, after our plates were cleared, the post-dessert dessert appeared. We got to try one of each: maple meringues, rose Turkish delights, lemon financiers, peach marshmallows, and salted caramel truffles. And oh, did I enjoy each one of them.
Where to get it: La Colombe. The set menu costs 570 rand ($65) and includes amuse bouche, three courses, palate cleanser, and this plate of post-dessert desserts.
5. Breizh Cafe Crepes in Paris, France
My friends Edna raved so much about Breizh Cafe, I was dying to go from the moment I arrived. And she was right — Ashley and Mario and I soon discovered that these were the absolute best crepes and galettes in Paris. Forget everywhere else — these are the real deal. The buckwheat crepes were crispy and buttery with perfectly-cooked ingredients; the crepes’ salted caramel butter is nothing short of divine. If you don’t order a crepe with salted caramel butter, you’re missing out majorly!
Where to get it: Breizh Cafe is in the heart of the Marais. I had the egg, cheese, ham and artichoke galette for about €7 ($9) and the salted caramel with chantilly crepe for €5 ($7), though fancier ones quickly get more expensive.
4. Ricotta Crostata in Torgiano, Italy
Ricotta. Perugine chocolate. Layers of perfectly cooked crust. The best dishes in Italy are the simple ones, and this dish at the Terre Margaritelli winery knocked one out of the park with its simple deliciousness. One slice was not enough for a lifetime. Even our resident celiac found herself digging out the filling so she could join in!
Where to get it: You’ll have to ask Jennifer at Life Italian Style — she offers cooking classes and she can even teach you how to make it! Prices vary.
3. Free Tapas in Granada, Spain
The miracle of Granada is that you can’t order just a drink — you automatically get a tapa. It could be something traditional like a plate of jamon or patatas. It could be something ethnic like Chinese dumplings or Thai chicken and rice. It could be a brand new cutting-edge dish, or something as big as a sandwich and chips! For free! Granada is one of the few cities in Spain that still offers free tapas with drinks, and I hope this continues forever.
Where to get it: There is a tapas bar in Granada that I love called Poe. They feature a lot of unusual items on their menu. I paid just €1.80 ($2.50) for a tinto de verano (red wine with lemon soda) and a tapa.
2. Jamon Iberico in Barcelona and Costa Brava, Spain
Oh, jamon iberico. This may be the best meat in the world — filled with salty cured goodness, but with an additional strong nutty flavor that lingers in your mouth for hours. Jamon iberico is one of the few foods that can bring me to tears on a regular basis. You don’t want to know how much of this I consumed in Spain.
Where to get it: Many restaurants in Spain have jamon iberico on the menu as their top-level ham. You can expect to pay around €12 ($16) for a medium-sized plate in a mid-range restaurant in Barcelona and less in markets or smaller cities.
And the absolute best thing I ate in 2012?
1. The Black Truffle Pizza at Jupiter Pizzeria in Pula, Croatia
I cannot tell you just how incredible this pizza is. It is absolutely heavenly. I am a truffle fiend and finding this pizza drenched in black truffle was one of the best things I have EVER consumed. If you end up in Pula, go to this pizzeria immediately — because you’ll want to return every night. This pizza will CHANGE YOUR LIFE.
Where to get it: Jupiter Pizzeria is on a narrow street in Pula. Make sure you ask for tomato sauce — the menu has multiple translations and one of the translations includes tomato sauce, but one doesn’t. The pizza costs 38/42/84 kuna ($7/7.50/15) for small/medium/giant. The above is a medium.
And a bonus! The best AND worst:
The simultaneously best and worst things I ate this year were the deep-fried Mars bars I had in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Best because they were absolute deep-fried melted chocolatey caramely goodness. Worst because of the deep-fried melted chocolatey caramely goodness.
Get them at Bene’s in Edinburgh for £2 ($3).
Honorary mentions: Gelupo pistachio gelato in London; all the tapas Erin introduced me to in Madrid; Icelandic tapas in Reykjavik; tomato fish chowder in Montenegro; porchetta in Umbria; the many plates of salume in Umbria; and the daily turn-down desserts at 54 on Bath in Johannesburg.