My Top Food Experiences of 2016
I’ll be honest. I judge a country by it’s food. It might be a great country, but if I don’t love the food, I just can’t love the country. Food is my favorite part of travel, and I’ve had some of the best food in the world during my 2016 adventure. I tried to aim at 15 best food experiences I’ve had to go nicely along with my best 2016 travel moments, but I just couldn’t narrow it down to that few. I got it down to 25, but there’s a lot more amazing food I would add to this list. 2016 was an amazing food year for me. Here is the best of what I ate!
This was my one big thing to try in New York. And OMG!!! It was better than I imagined. Like birthday in my mouth!
First - let me say that I was completely surprised by the food in India. I’ve only had Indian food a few times of my life - friends or co-workers made me go to the restaurants - and I didn’t particularly like it. Oh, and it’s spicy. So when I went to India, I was prepared to just not eat much. But I was wrong! I LOVED the food in India! I can’t wait to go back and have more.
So this is where Appam comes in. While I’ve never heard of it before, my friend ordered it for me for lunch at Jamavar knowing that I would like it. And I absolutely LOVED it!
“Appam is a type of pancake made with fermented rice batter and coconut milk. It is a common food in the South Indian state of Kerala. It is also popular in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. It is eaten most frequently for breakfast or dinner.” - Wikipedia
The best part is that it comes with this incredible thick fresh coconut milk. When I got it in Singapore after my trip to India, they served it with a red powder that my friends were worried was super spicy, but it was just sugar :) The sugar and coconut and appam mix was incredible! Like a dessert!
Pesto alla Genovese
The first food experience I had in Italy was a family dinner at Trattoria La Beppa in Genoa. This place doesn’t even have a website or anything! My new local Italian family has selected it!
The food was served family-style and it was all amazing, but I couldn’t believe it when they served with pasta dish with Pesto alla Genovese:
I didn’t think I liked pesto at all, but wow! I just never had the real pesto - it originated right from the region of Italy I was in! The rest of my trip in Italy, when I got pasta, I tried to get it with this pesto sauce vs the tomato-based sauce I would usually select otherwise.
Also, this restaurant had the best Tiramisu I’ve had in the world, and I had a lot of Tiramisu on my Italy trip! 😋
So this one makes the list not because it is delicious, but because it is so ridiculous! Definitely an experience!
I’ve never heard of Durian, but when my new friends in Singapore told me about it, of course I wanted to try it! They arranged everything, all I had to do was show up along with other foreign brave friends.
It tasted like a mix of mango + strong blue cheese to me. But I think my friend described the taste a lot better as “it’s a tropical gym socks fruit”. What a hilarious and unforgettable experience! I will probably not try Durian again…
The Public Burger
So I’m not a burger person. They are tasteless to me, so I avoid as much as possible. But after being away from the US for a few months, when I got back to visit my family in Chicago for a week, I suddenly had the biggest craving for a burger.
The hotel I was staying in - Public Chicago - had the most expensive burger on the menu. I think it was like $26 dollars! But I had to have it (see the part about not being in the US for a while).
OMG!! It was the best burger in the world. I don’t even have a picture of it because I assumed I wouldn’t really like it, but you can see it here. Definitely having it next time I’m in Chicago. In fact, craving it right now 🙈
White Truffle Steak
So I don’t like steak and I avoid it. However, when I took my friend to my favorite restaurant in Italy - Osteria Dei Poeti in Volterra - she ordered the steak.
I had a bite and wow! I cannot describe the heaven! The chef at Osteria Dei Poeti has the heavenly touch with cooking - everything she makes is amazing, but this steak is at a different level! I later returned to the restaurant and had the steak all to myself as my last meal before leaving Volterra!
Cereal Ice Cream
I know, it sounds ridiculous and that’s what I thought when my friend told me about it, but I decided to try it anyway. WOW!!! It’s hard to describe cereal ice cream - the salty crunch on the outside just goes perfectly with the milk-flavored ice cream. You’ll just have to try if for yourself at the Momofuku Milk Bar.
Fresh Sour Cherries
There was an amazing sour cherry tree outside of my AirBNB in Port Townsend. The neighbor told me to eat all the cherries before the deer do (there were a ton of deer roaming around in this town 🙈), so of course I ate the cherries!
At first, I would pick them, put them in a bowl, wash them, and eat them. But eventually, I let my inner deer take over, and just started eating them from the yard straight from the tree. They were incredible. Fresh cherries from a tree!! A nature’s gift!
Focaccia di Recco
I’m not a big Focaccia person, but when my new friend @darthpelo recommended to try Focaccia di Recco, I made sure to listen! After all, my rule is to always listen to locals. They know best!
One of the restaurants he recommended was Dao Vittorio, so I took my family, and we went on the train to the nearby town of Recco. I’ll admit that the town itself is nothing to look at (although maybe we weren’t in the right part of it). As we were walking through it, everything seemed to be closed and I even began to doubt that the restaurant we were heading to was even open. But as soon as we got there, I knew this restaurant was the one! The ambience was just absolutely perfect!
We ordered Focaccia di Recco of course!
Unlike the big olive-oil-soaked Foccacia I’m used to, this one was absolutely thin and perfect. The waiter mentioned that while pizza is cooked at 200 degrees, this Foccacia is cooked at 360 degrees. The over takes the entire night to heat up for it!
Oh, and that cheese…. the cheese is truly heavenly and indescribable. We learned that it is called Stracchino and it’s super hard to find in the US because it only lasts 5 days before it goes bad…
You must try this heavenly dish before you die!
Comogliese al Rhum
I first had Comogliese al Rhum as a dessert at Dao Vittorio after Focaccia di Recco and other food we ordered. It is basically a dark-chocolate ball filled with rum and it is incredible!
It was so good, we asked for two more servings to bring to our family that didn’t come with us on this foodie adventure and recently my mom figured out how to make them at home.
I was still craving more the next day. So much, that I went to Comogli (where the chocolate balls get their name from) and got the original ones myself! Wow! Oh, and Camogli was just breathtaking and magical!
Robot Ice Cream
OMG!!! A robot gave me ice cream!!! In Japan! On my birthday!
I always thought robots would take over like in the Terminator, but this is a much more believable scenario. They start by giving you ice cream!
Ok, so this cookie in Seoul wasn’t the best one I’ve had taste-wise, but I got to break it with a hammer!!!
Can you see how excitement in my face?!!! Here is the cookie once it’s broken:
I don’t see why all cookies don’t come this way!
Din Tai Fung Dumplings
I looked it up on Foursquare, and decided to go to the one with the better ratings that was further away rather than the closer one. I’m glad I did! This fancier one had a lot more vegetarian options, including the special edition truffle mushroom dumplings which were mind-blowing!
It was also super fun to watch them make the dumplings right there!
Dulce de Leche Dessert
I’m currently in Buenos Aires, and Dulce de Leche is HUGE here! Personally, I’m not the biggest fan as I find it way too sweet. However, when I went to a fancy lunch with my friend @catehstn at Los Salones del Piano Nobile, she ordered this Dulce de Leche concoction:
I had some and OMG! It was perfect. Just the right type of perfectly crunchy waffles with the right amount of dulce de leche - just a perfect combination!
Ricotta with Honey in Tuscany
So I’m not a big Ricotta cheese person (or so I thought…), but while out to a nigh-time winery in Volterra, Italy called VolaTerrA, I wanted something super light to eat, so the ricotta with honey and walnuts sounded perfect!
Wow!! I’ve never really had ricotta! It seriously tasted like eating a piece of cloud from heaven. I ordered a lot more ricotta during my trip in Tuscany. Not something I would have guessed at all, but wow!! That Tuscany ricotta!
Fruit Stand Produce
So I’ll be honest - I’m not big on restaurant food here in Argentina. After two months here, I finally found one restaurant I actually like. So instead of going out, I’ve been mostly cooking and staying mostly vegetarian / vegan.
While the restaurant food isn’t great, the fruit / vegetable stands are INCREDIBLE!!
The produce is just so fresh! And it goes bad within a day or two - there are no preservatives. It’s ripe! It’s basically like going to a fresh farmers market every day!
So I had a hard time with gelato in Italy. While I usually love ice cream, gelato is just ridiculously sweet to me. I finally found one place that had good (fresh and not ridiculously sugary gelato).
I later accidentally discovered the Stracciatella flavor and things got better from there! That topped with going to the top Gelateria recommended to me in Rome - Palazzo del Freddo - made it one of the top ice creams I’ve had in the world!
Royce Matcha Chocolate 7/11 Ice Cream
Speaking of my favorite ice cream around the world, Japanese ice cream tops the list. It’s fresh - you can taste the ingredients - and not much sugar is added. The ingredients speak for themselves as they should!
I love fresh green tea soft serve! But one of my favorite ice creams in Japan is from 7/11. It’s matcha on the outside, chocolate on the inside. I can’t wait to get it again when I’m back in Japan! Oh, and make sure it’s the Royce brand. I once accidentally got an off-brand of it because it looked very similar in packaging, and there is definitely a difference!
No comment needed I guess, but it is possible to mess this up with too much Nutella / bad crust. This pizza from a random pizza restaurant I passed in Sienna made it just perfect…
Ok, so I wouldn’t have ordered this on my own, but we struck a conversation with a couple sitting next to us in this amazing restaurant on Elba, and they gave us a piece of their octopus to try. The fancy couple told us that octopus is super hard to make, as it requires a lot of massaging / beating? of it to make it taste good.
Wow!! They confirmed that this restaurant had top-notch 🐙! I was craving it again months later here in Argentina only to be disappointed when the pasta I ordered had fried, not fresh, octopus like I was imagining.
Energizing Fig Bread
I did a super intense hike all over Giglio Island until it was finally almost time to leave. I was suddenly hungry (I hiked a LOT! It was insane!), so I went to a few cafes, and kept seeing this fancy bread thing. It seemed like a home-made local specialty, so I bought it!
It was weird at first, but I ended up really liking it! It was fresh fig bread with nuts and chocolate:
I later learned that it’s a local Christmas bread made from only ingredients found on the island! It was super filling and energizing! I couldn’t eat all of it, so I took it with me and ate it the next day whenever I was hungry. I would totally be up for bringing it around with me wherever I go!
Margherita Pizza in Santa Margherita
On the way back from Portofino in Italy, my family and I decided to make a dinner stop in Santa Margherita. Of course the town name immediately had me craving Margherita Pizza… I looked places up on Foursquare, and found the amazing Ristorante Cinzia e Mario:
It was the best pizza I’ve ever had!! Oh, and the restaurant was just in the most perfect movie-set like Italian alley with perfect Italian music. I devoured the pizza! And had the best time in the atmosphere. The biggest issue was that this was my first pizza in Italy. Everything I had after that just wasn’t the same. I think I’ll have to go to Naples for better pizza next time!
It’s hard to describe when food tastes like that… Just pure heaven and art and fireworks. Perfection! Wow!
I got fresh roti when I visited the Rajasthani cultural village Chokhi Dhani in Chennai. They only gave out one, but my friend and I kept asking for more, until they gave us like 5 more 😂. This roti was made with some type of sweet yogurt and sugar on top. We also had a more spicy one! Still thinking about this one…
The Best Sushi in the World
The first time I went to Japan was to eat Jiro’s sushi after watching the popular documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. While we weren’t able to get into Jiro’s restaurant, we did go to his son’s restaurant in Roppongi.
However, the first time I went, I was super nervous and uncomfortable. I wanted to make sure I followed all the rules and didn’t offend anyone. It was good, but I was too nervous and I was eating super fast as they were making the sushi.
So this year, I decided to go again with a few friends who were in town who’ve also watched the documentary. This time, we were the only ones there, and one of my friends spoke Japanese. I also knew what to expect, so it was a lot more relaxing for me.
I was able to relax and focus on the food! Let’s just say that I’m really glad I went here at the end of my trip to Japan. My favorite sushi restaurant hat I’ve visited at least weekly suddenly tasted like dirt. It’s honestly a whole other level of sushi that’s impossible to describe unless you try it.
In fact, everything tasted like dirt for a while after this sushi…
I’ve also had some fun drinks this year…
So I accidentally ordered 4 shots of vodka and an additional flask of vodka while in Warsaw, Poland at Sloik Restaurant. I drink very rarely, but when in Poland… I actually had a lot of unforgettable fun (yes, unforgettable even with all the vodka!) that night with several friends!
I finally tried Mate - a Latin America tea-like herb that has the caffeine levels between tea and coffee and is packed with amazing vitamins and nutrients. It also gives a very smooth high - energy and clear mind without the jittery effects of coffee. Oh - and it comes in fun cups with fun straws! Amazing!
Beer is another one of those things that I don’t get. But when my friend ordered one at VolaTerrA in Tuscany, I was impressed by the bottle and asked to try it.
It smelled like wine and tasted like caramel! Wow!! My friend on Twitter explained that it was “Craft Beer, we created the ‘Italian’ style, that mean experimentation, excellent “raw” materials :)”
Here is the beer if you want to try it!
A lot of foods I’ve listed here were foods I didn’t think I liked, but when prepared really well, they were amazing. 2016 was definitely the most gastronomical year of my life. I can’t wait to try new amazing food in 2017!