2017 – wow what a year! 2016 was a tough act to follow for me and Mark being the year that we got married and went on our honeymoon to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, but 2017 has certainly given it a run for it’s money. From our trip to Japan for my friend’s wedding back in May and my first trip to New York in October, to surprising and exciting discoveries on home turf, its been a year to remember and appreciate. I wanted to share some highlights of some of the best food I’ve been lucky enough to experience in 2017.
10. Seared Wagyu Beef with Japanese Vegetables and Dashi Gravy at my friend’s wedding, Tokyo
First up at number ten is this unexpected delight served up at my Japanese friend’s wedding at Anniversaire in Tokyo last May. This was a simple, but perfectly executed dish of meltingly tender wagyu beef served with vegetables and a genius dashi gravy. I just loved the understated feel and almost coyness of this dish that delivered such bucketfuls of umami.
9. Smoked grains at Tørst, Brooklyn
The combination of labneh, smoky freekeh, melon and chilli had me instantly intrigued, but admittedly somewhat suspicious of what I was letting myself in for. The result was absolutely delicious and I have recreated a version of this at home on numerous occasions since.
8. Ham Hock Burger from Fresh Pig, East Midlands
It was Mark who spotted this little gem hiding amongst hog roasts, exotic meat burgers, Caribbean food vans, and myriad other mouthwatering options at the Derbyshire Food and Drink Festival. “The Puck” ham hock burger from Fresh Pig was crispy and full of hammy flavour with zingy ketchup and salad all in a potato bun. Imagine if we’d have missed out on such a great find!
7. Houjicha Sundae at Nana’s Green Tea, Fukuoka
How do you beat matcha green tea ice cream? With houjicha green tea ice cream…And how do you beat that? Put it in a sundae stacked sky high with green tea fudge, crispy sweet cereals, black honey and more!
6. Tsukemen at Tsujita, Tokyo
A short walk from Iidabashi station, Tsujita is my Japanese friend’s favourite ramen restaurant in Tokyo, and from my much more limited experience I’m inclined to agree. The restaurant is split into two separate mini restaurants and each has its own entrance and its own signature ramen dish. The left-hand side (as you face them) serves beautiful miso ramen, and the right serves tsukemen. Miso ramen, as I’m sure you can work out for yourself, is served all together in a miso broth. Tsukemen on the other hand is a much thicker pork broth served with noodles on the side that you dip into the sauce as you go along. The noodles at Tsujita are just perfect and the broth thick and full of flavour. It’s well worth the queue and they now have an English menu that you can use to navigate the outdoor ordering machine.
5. Aloo Tikki Chat at Gymkhana, London
I was very excited to visit Gymkhana towards the end of 2017 – I had heard great things and I do love a good Indian meal. And if there’s one thing I love in Indian cuisine, it’s potatoes. This sharing plate delivered layers of flavour with every mouthful. Spiced potato with pops of sweet pomegranate and the crisp salad as well. Take me back!
4. Wagyu Carpaccio at Sakagura, London
This was part of the tasting menu we had to celebrate my birthday back in May. I don’t know whether this is something I would have ordered if we weren’t getting the tasting menu as I’m generally not a huge fan of truffle. However, I am a fan of yuzu and the lift the yuzu gave the dressing along with the beautiful wagyu carpaccio and the chef’s restraint with the all-too-easy-to-overdo truffle made this a top 5 hit for me and with some seriously stiff competition.
3. Sushi breakfast at Daiwa Sushi, Tsukiji Market, Tokyo
Going for a sushi breakfast at Tsukiji fish market is the ultimate, sought-after foodie experience in Tokyo so we knew this was going to be good. We queued outside the tiny little restaurant for a perch at the counter and my goodness it was worth it. Sushi doesn’t come fresher than the morning’s catch straight from the fishermen, and we left stuffed and on cloud nine.
2. Hot Pastrami Sandwich at Katz Deli, New York
Think you’ve had pastrami? Think again. There was one restaurant that everybody recommended to me before we took our trip to New York, and it was Katz Deli for their Hot Pastrami sandwich. The door-stop-sized pile of succulent, chunky slices of pastrami and dash of mustard that topped this sandwich can’t be described, only experienced. I’ve never eaten pastrami – nay, any meat – so juicy, tender, and flavourful in my life and if you ever visit New York (and are a meat-eater of course) you absolutely must try this.
So what managed to clinch the top spot as my favourite food experience of 2017…
1. Everything at Frenchie,Covent Garden
I couldn’t even choose a favourite dish from our meal at Frenchie, because it was all so perfect, and that’s really what made it my best food experience of 2017. They didn’t just nail one dish, or two dishes, but every single dish that they served was harmonious and impeccably balanced so that every single ingredient had its place and the marriage of flavours just sang. I just wanted to savour every last mouthful and sit there with my eyes closed going mmmmmmmm. A truly special meal that I will remember for life.
Pave of Fallow at the Pot Kiln, Berkshire
It still hurts me a little bit to remember this meal at the Pot Kiln in Berkshire, because I was full of cold which had completely messed with my sense of taste! I knew that this dish was a cracker – the texture of the meat was enough to tell me that, but I just didn’t get the full experience. I felt I had to give it a special mention here though, because I think it would have been a contender had I not been plagued with influenza.
“Zucker’s Traditional” Smoked Salmon and Cream Cheese Bagel at Zucker’s, New York
How to turn a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel into something really special? Add capers, fresh beefsteak tomato, and a smidge of red onion and you’ve got a next-level bagel! The fact that this has revolutionised my salmon and cream cheese bagel eating makes this deserving of a special mention.
Cereal Milk Soft Serve with Crunch at Milk Bar, Brooklyn
This is such an inspired concept for soft serve ice cream and tastes so delicious! It’s simply cereal milk flavour ice cream sprinkled with a sweet and salty cereal crunch, but it takes you on a nostalgic tasting journey that you don’t want to end, and so it had to get a special mention here.
All-in-all it’s been a fantastic year of food and travel and new adventures and Mark and I have a lot to be thankful for. Roll on 2018 – let’s see what you’ve got!