I enjoyed recapping my most memorable eats of 2014, and to start a new tradition, I've looked back at this past year to once again record them. Attributing these moments with the quality of Proustian memory might be a stretch but they have at least lived through my memories of this year. Some of these foods were equally memorable to Meghan and those have been marked as such.
Idlis at Brahmin's, Bangalore, India, January and September (+ M)
The anticipation of waking up in the morning to get to Brahmin's and the scene outside on the streets of Basavanagudi is as much a part of what makes this so memorable as their idlis drenched in chutney topped with a dollop of homemade butter. The filter coffee, of which Vinod always ends up getting two, completes the experience.
Garam Doodh (Warm Milk), Bhajanlal Dairy Farm, Bombay, India, January
A few miles away from my parents' apartment, off the highway, is Bhajanlal Dairy Farm. Fresh milk is steeped with cardamom, saffron and pistachios and cooked until a significant amount of the water has evaporated, leaving behind an incredibly rich and flavorful drink. When served, the milk is topped with fresh cream from the cooking vat.
Lacto-fermented vegetables, L'air de temps, Éghezée, Belgium, January
A lot of the dishes at L'air du temps are incredible, but this dish of lacto-fermented vegetables is particularly memorable. In the cooler months chef Sang-Hoon Degeimbre serves fermented vegetables picked from the restaurant garden in the summer. The jus, a rich emulsion of the pickled juices and butter, acts as a fatty-acidic counter-balance to the sweetness of the vegetables. Pretty much in the middle of nowhere, the setting adds to the experience.
John Dory Terrine, Rockpool, Sydney, Australia, March
This terrine at Rockpool in Sydney concentrated the flavors of John Dory in a compact, not-quite-fluffy not-quite-a-pâté package. Guanciale and mushrooms rounded out the flavors with umami and earthiness, while bread crumbs provided textural contrast.
François Pralus Tobago Estate Chocolate 70%, Brooklyn, New York, all year
Like last year, this François Pralus made Tobago Estate Chocolate remains a favorite. Lush with a lot of natural sweetness, reminiscent of malt and ripe berries.
Bread, Brae, Birregura, Victoria, Australia, March
I have written about an experience at Brae before. The bread here was one of the most satisfying parts of the meal.
The whole-wheat sourdough, made using a combination of stone-ground biodynamic whole-wheat and white flour, both sourced from Wholegrain Milling in Gunnedah, has a dark hard crust, malty and lightly caramelly, a soft dark interior, less chewy than you might expect, but in a good way, with a slight tang. Combined with the homemade lightly churned butter from rich Jersey milk it’s hard to separate which is meant to be a vehicle for the other.
Duck, Brae, Birregura, Victoria, Australia, March
Brae hits a high note with the aged peking duck, wood roasted on the bone. It’s served with the stewed fruit of quandong, a native species with a very tart fruit; along with dried liver, and nasturtium blossoms. I thought this was an incredibly balanced dish, the tartness of the quandong playing well with the gamey duck, and the dried liver bringing some earthy notes, muting the bite from the nasturtium blossoms and stems.
Uni, Chickpea, Hozon, Momofuku Ko, New York City, April
A curious assemblage, this was sublime.
Pump Street Bakery Grenada, 2014 Crayfish Bay Estate 70%, Brooklyn, New York, all year
In addition to the Tobago Estate Chocolate, this 70% Grenada from Pump Street Bakery won my chocolate heart.
Dalencay cheese, Linden Dale Farms, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, April
A take on the French Valençay (hence the name), this beautiful cheese from Linden Dale Farms, by this day, was aged longer than its namesake. Creamy with a delicious bite, it felt optimally ripe. Along with some speck from neighbors Rooster Street Butchers within Central Market, this was my breakfast on a beautiful spring day in Lancaster.
Sonora Beef, Casa Virginia, México City, Mexico, April
Mónica Patiño's Casa Virginia is perched on the second floor of a side street in the Roma. Distressed white walls, white tablecloths and candle lights lent the dining room an understated elegance; while the thoughtfully placed succulents and wooden chairs give it some warmth. The rustic food, with a nod to Italy, is served family-style using high-quality ingredients.
I'm not usually a fan of the tenderloin cut, but the flavors on this piece of Sonoran beef, certainly in no small part because of the precise cooking and constant basting of the olive oil and thyme picked fresh from their rooftop herb garden, was incredible.
Mole Madre Mole Nuevo, Pujol, México City, Mexico, April
Mole Madre Mole Nuevo — “mother” mole, new mole — is constantly evolving, a powerfully seductive idea. Fresh mole is surrounded by more complex, aged mole — Mole Madre. On this day it was 641 days, 102 days older than when I had it last.
Congee, Sang Kee, Hong Kong, May
My morning routine when I’m in Hong Kong is pretty regimented: I traipse down the hills of Sheung Wan toward Sang Kee. I normally get the fish congee, which is cooked in a broth made using fish and pork bones. Along with the century egg, it manages to be umami-packed, comforting, delicious and nourishing.
Roast Goose, Yat Lok, Hong Kong, May
If I were to have a second routine when I’m in Hong Kong (I do not), it might be Yat Lok for lunch. I normally get a mix of char siu and goose over rice; sometimes I splurge on the leg, a mixed proposition, because eating it fully and satisfactorily involves eschewing the chopsticks for more primitive forms of eating. I always ask for a side of greens with fuyu (a mildly pungent, fermented soybean-based sauce — make sure to ask for it, the English menu wants you to get oyster sauce).
Indian mangoes, Home in Brooklyn, New York, June (+ M)
My parents unfailingly try sending me mangoes every year. They don't always make it here for all kinds of logistical reasons that I'm never fully sure of and sometimes when they do it's too late. Fortunately for us a dozen kesar mangoes made it pretty much intact.
Few things in life make me more nostalgic for my younger days in Goa and Bombay than eating a ripe mango over the kitchen sink. Indian mangoes, whether kesar or hapus, are hard to match up to.
Granadilla, Bogotá, Colombia, June (+ M)
Sweet, with a slimy texture, granadillas were our favorite fruit to eat in Bogotá.
Foie Gras with Apricot, Peanuts and Basil, The Modern, New York City, July
The Modern is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. This combination of foie gras, peanuts, apricots and basil sounds like forcing summer down foie gras, but it worked unexpectedly well, a nice textural and flavor contrast.
Sai-Ua, Chiang Mai, Brooklyn, New York, July
Sai-Ua, a Northern Thai pork sausage, is unlike western sausages: it’s filled with fresh herbs and feels lighter. I like many of the dishes at Chiang Mai in Red Hook, but this is probably what I crave most.
Roasted Tomato and Ricotta Tartine, home in Brooklyn, New York, all summer (+ M)
Tomatoes this summer were incredible and our market was overflowing with them. We used them regularly to make caprese salads and this wonderful tartine.
Dover Sole with Duck Liver, Shellfish Velouté and Duxelles, Bord'eau, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, August
Dover Sole was served over a shellfish velouté, draped with thinly sliced mushrooms that were pillowed by shaved duck liver that gradually melted into each bite. Ethereal.
Paan, Bombay, India, September
My friend Peter quickly turned into a paan-oisseur when we were in Bombay together earlier this year. While all not-quite artisanal-grade we ate a lot of pretty damned good paan.
Mum's lunch, Bombay, India, September
My mum always cooks elaborate breakfasts, lunches and dinners when I'm home. There is very rarely a time there when I’m able to experience the sensation of hunger (which I quickly reacquaint with when I’m back in Brooklyn). Her food is delicious, no less in part because she is my mum.
Fish Ball Noodles, Tiong Bahru Food Centre, Singapore, September
In Singapore I like waking up to the breath of fresh umami. Opinions on food here are strong and varied, sometimes objective, but often rooted in food centre patriotism. My favorite fish ball noodles just happen to be the two tastiest ones in the food centre in one of my favorite neighborhoods : stall #02-13 and stall #02-44, Tiong Bahru Food Centre in Tiong Bahru.
Broccoli Rabe and Sausage, Zagreb, Croatia, October
Gregorio, an expert at restraint, has his cooking firmly rooted in his native Italy. He cooked this rabe with homemade sausage with chillies he picked from a friend’s garden for an impromptu tasting lunch for Priska and me. Simple, delicious.
Miyazaki Wagyu Donburi, Kokage, New York City, all year
The Wagyu donburi at Kokage remains one of my favorite foods. Typically the egg here is cooked with a jelly-like yolk and runny whites, which I much prefer for this dish, but recently Hiro-san is experimenting with a typical soft-boiled egg with runny yolks.
Slow-scrambled eggs over sourdough with Prosciutto and Parmesan, home in Brooklyn, December (+ M)
I cook scrambled eggs very slow, on low heat, over twenty minutes, constantly stirring, to achieve the smallest curds possible. While tedious, the result is incredibly rich and flavorful, and a textural delight.
For breakfasts some mornings, we topped this over griddled sourdough, draped by thinly sliced prosciutto di parma, grated parmigiano, finished with a nice drizzle of evoo.
Bacon, Egg and Cheese sandwich, home in Brooklyn, December
The much-loved New York bodega classic transforms into a deliciousness all its own instead of mere nostalgia (which, admittedly, I use rather precariously here) when elevated with better ingredients. Meghan made this using sourdough from Roberta’s, griddled with copious amounts of butter, topped with a fried egg, smoked cheddar from Vermont and fried bacon. Rich is right.
Now when I walk the streets of New York my eyes are tuned into the ubiquitous bodega signs announcing bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches with coffee, and I instantly crave it, the homemade version.