As someone who writes a lot about food, it only seems right that I do an end of year piece on my top foodie (and drink) highlights of 2014.
So as you’re all tucking into your turkey and brussel sprouts and feeling as full as can be, here’s a blog post to make you feel even fuller. Or perhaps once you’re over the Christmas indulgence and ready to eat again, it will inspire your eating and travelling for 2015.
Miss T’s, Jamaica
The fact we made it our mission to find this place through the sweltering heat and bustling streets of Ocho Rios made it all the more of an oasis when we finally found it.
I later wrote about this restaurant on the Virgin Holidays blog, Unleashed. And these pictures will show you, this was a very special place.
Imagine drinking the coldest bottle of red stripe beer on a red hot Caribbean day and being surrounded by beautiful brightly coloured décor, rustic wooden surroundings and lots of lush greenery.
The food speaks for itself here and I can still taste the creamy prawn curry with rice, peas and plantain when I see this picture.
This was Caribbean food at its best.
I’d never been to Benihana until I was invited along to their 50th anniversary celebrations in June.
Anyone who has been to this famous Japanese steakhouse will understand, this is a place you visit for the visual entertainment factor as much as the culinary quality.
As part of the anniversary celebrations, we were treated to a food catwalk show and then watched various expert Benihana chefs put on their chef performances.
There was knife-throwing, flames and other incredible teppan tricks, plus of course, the most delicious sushi and grilled steak. We were even treated to a Launch of the Sake Ceremony and the atmosphere here is just brilliant. This will definitely be a restaurant I return to in the new year.
Seven Portes, Barcelona
During a sunshine city break in Barcelona this summer, we had our eyes (and stomachs) set on finding one thing – the city’s best paella.
Did we succeed? Oh yes. We visited Seven Portes – one of the oldest paella restaurants in the whole of Barcelona.
If you ever get to go, the portions are huge. So you can easily tuck in to one paella dish between two. But me being a seafood friend and el hombre being a seafood foe, we ordered two.
The Rich Man’s Paella was a fish-lover’s delight and was fresh and full of flavours of the sea.
Imagine this with a glass of wine, a balmy summer’s night and strings of twinkling lights, plus tons of history. What better way to enjoy Spain’s most famous dish?
Eating my way around New York
Oh New York, New York, how I love you so. And a huge part of my adoration for this amazing city is down to its food and drink scene. In October this year my friend Hannah and I spent an amazing long girly weekend in my favourite city. And when people asked me ‘well what did you do?’ on our return, my answer was ‘well, we kind of ate our way around the city.’
When you see the pictures, you’ll see we truly did take a bite out of the Big Apple. Here are some of the highlights.
Coffee and pastries in Birch – now my favourite coffee shop in the world. Read my post about Birch coffee here.
Bubby’s in the Meatpacking District – I cannot tell you how epic this place is. While Hannah tucked into some gigantic fluffy pancakes topped in the juiciest, most gorgeous fruit compote-style sauce, I got my teeth into a sumptuous pulled pork burger on brioche. Like that wasn’t indulgent enough, I also ordered a cheeky mac ‘n’ cheese on the side. Mouth-watering doesn’t even come close. Add to this wondrous spread a gorgeous full sun shining over us and a couple of fresh sodas and we were two very happy girls.
If you’re wondering, yes, Hannah was defeated by the pancakes. I however made a pretty huge dent out of that burger, mac n cheese. Devine.
Our New York eating continued with many other highlights, from Joe’s Pizza to spaghetti in Little Italy. But these fresh Red Hook Lobster Pound lobster rolls and ice cream sandwiches by The Good Batch at Smorgasburg in Brooklyn were right at the top of my NYC foodie highlights…
…as was our boozy brunch at my old favourite, Cookshop, in Chelsea.
Cacao-infused cuisine at the Boucan restaurant, St Lucia
Discovering St Lucia this year was a highlight of 2014 in itself. But having the opportunity to visit the Boucan restaurant at the Rabot cocoa estate in Soufriere was something I’ll never forget.
Owned by the Hotel Chocolat group, this restaurant is just sublime in all ways. Nestled in the rainforest, the restaurant has stunning views out to the Pitons. And the menu is an incredibly unique selection of Anglo-Caribbean style dishes which all have a subtle infusion of cacao from the cocoa plantation.
Confused? Think roast cacao nib-encrusted scotch eggs, curried coconut and cacao Caribbean chicken and salad with a white chocolate dressing.
For dessert? It had to be the Rabot Chocolate Lava – a chocolate sponge dome filled with molten chocolate, followed by chocolate truffles of course. Even the cocktails have extracts of cocoa in them. We had the cacao martinis. Out. Of. This. World.
Cacao-infused cocktails at Rabot 1745
After visiting the Rabot Estate in St Lucia, it seemed only right that we visited a restaurant on our own doorstep in London that’s linked to this very special place. While the Boucan restaurant in the Caribbean serves haute cacao-infused cuisine, the Rabot 1745 restaurant in London’s Borough Market serves an equally alluring menu based on the purest form of chocolate.
I haven’t yet eaten at Rabot 1745 but I did visit the restaurant recently to sample their cocktails for a piece I was writing for the LovethisCity blog. (You can read it here)
Forget your usual run of the mill cocktails. Mixologists here like to tantalise your chocolate-loving tastebuds with all sorts of cacao-infused gin and tonics, fresh cacao martinis and cacao pulp bellinis.
While the praline soother does taste like a dreamy, boozy, heavenly liquid version of a Milky Bar (it really is amazing), the cacao martini and gin martini carry the most delicate yet divine infusions of cacao.
Whether you like chocolate or not, the chocolate ‘hit’ you get from these tipples really is something else. We were so impressed, we were the last ones standing in the bar. I can only imagine how fantastic the food is here.
Henne Kirkeby Kro & Restaurant Frederikshøj, Denmark
A trip to Denmark at the end of this year introduced me to some very interesting food experiences I hadn’t had before. I was exploring the food scene beyond Copenhagen for a piece I was writing for Foodtripper, and this involved enjoying some rather unique dining in Restaurant Frederikshøj, Aarhus and Henne Kirkeby Kro in West Jutland.
With Wassim Hallal at the helm of Restaurant Frederikshøj, we enjoyed what I can only describe as technically superior cooking. From potatoes that were disguised as rocks, to sea urchin and caviar soup and goldfish bowls of culinary delights immersed in steam, the food here is designed to beguil and surprise.
A day later, we were dining on a vast array of sumptuous caviar, lobster ‘cappuccinos’, the finest mussels and truffle poached pork cheeks in the dining room of Paul Cunningham at Henne Kirkeby Kro.
For a full description, hop over and have a read of the article I wrote. But all I can say is, these meals lasted four, five, maybe six hours, consisted of 15+ courses and were combined with the finest selection of wines picked by top sommeliers.
This is fine Nordic dining at its best and I only want to return in 2015 to explore this country more. And one day I WILL get to Copenhagen to eat insects in Noma (OK, maybe I’ll skip the insects bit).
How’s that for my 2014 food highlights? Here’s to (oh) so many more in 2015. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
Until next time x