31 December 2013

Best meals (out) of 2013

As we head into 2014 with great enthusiasm, let's look back at some of the best meals we had in 2013. It was a year filled with trials and tribulations, no doubt, but also some really great food.

 Locanda Verde, New York City

We went during Legal Tech in February with some work friends. Jennifer came down from T.O. to spend a couple of days.We tried practically everything on the menu.  Meatballs so good you couldn't even believe it. Pasta fantastic. Atmosphere was super hip (a bit overwhelming for me, but I managed). Not very poetic, this is why I'm not a restaurant reviewer.

Topolopambo, Chicago

Rick Bayliss has been the inspiration for my Mexican cooking fetish. From him I have learned so much about flavours and textures as well as styles of cooking. Have wanted to eat at one of his restaurants for years and this year on my birthday, we did it.  The service was absolutely spectacular and as I'd been sick all day, the gentle touch went a long way with me. We had the tasting menu (which changes every few months) but the flavours, combinations, and textures of the beautifully presented food absolutely lived up to expectation. We will be going back (and here's the post about that adventure).

East Indies, Eighth Bastion Hotel, Cochin, India

The food during our trip to India got better every day. Eating in the state of Kerala in the south provided new tastes and adventures. The seafood, especially the giant blue prawns, was prepared simply and deliciously. It proved to me, that yes, I could eat Indian food every day. On our last day in India we went to East Indies in Cochin. The food was Dutch-Indian fusion providing a modern and artistic twist on the local cuisine. Just absolutely fantastic and a great way to end our adventure.

Taqueria El Farolito, San Francisco

I am all about the high-end restaurants but give me a dive with cheap food and off-the-charts delicious food, and nothing makes me happier. I was in San Francisco for a conference and wanted to have a Mission Burrito. There is much debate over the best burrito in SF but I landed on El Farolito. Outstanding. I had a tongue/steak burrito (no beans, sadly) with a horchata. Sat with a really interesting young chef who was off to see a concert with some friends. Enjoyed the whole experience of being human that night.

Now don't think that we didn't also have some great food at home in Toronto. We sure did!

Hopgoods Foodliner 

This was Jennifer's choice for her birthday. A bit of Atlantic Canada in west end Toronto. Go there, it's fun. Try the crab dip with triscuits. Also the Halifax Donairs (with sweet sauce), Digby scallops, and the Cape Breton snow crab (served cold on a tower with ice). All dishes made for sharing, so go with lots of people as you'll want to try many things and having pals with you means you won't leave so full you don't know what to do with yourself!  Again, another place with great service, which made the evening despite the cranky pants fella at the table next to us. 


I have a great fondness for the charcuterie and it's quite the rage all over the place these days. So I have had quite a few, some good some not so great. Union's was probably the best I had this year. All made in-house (including the smoked meats). Definitely enough for a meal - hearty and delicious. Lots of comfort food and great drinks in this very small restaurant.

The Chase

I have a lot of business lunches and the food is often expensive and generally pretty decent. I'm not one to hop on the bus of trendy and "it" places (which this apparently is) but I am going to say that I had one of the best lunches I've ever had here. As a starter I had the avocado stuffed with a shrimp salad - who knew you could slice avocado so beautifully thin?! My main was scallops with quinoa, a pea puree and a soft poached egg. I can't describe the sweet, velvety deliciousness of this emerald green dish. I can taste it now just writing about it. I am actually afraid to go back because I don't believe it'll ever be that good again and who needs the disappointment.

Richmond Station

This downtown spot hidden away beside the ramp to the Bay Adelaide parking garage. Perhaps J's favourite of the year. Top choices: the suprisingly delicious quinoa salad and the best halibut in town. We were repeat offenders here (although not as frequent as our pal Sarah!).  

Of course, lot of great food made at home but that's another story altogether. We didn't actually eat out as much, or at least eat out at "fancy" places, as in past years. But usually we ended up at totally worthwhile places. There are always lots of great places to discover in Toronto, and we will continue our urban adventuring in 2014. Happy New Year.

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