2012 In Review: The Year In Traveling Far To Eat Very Good Things
FR contributors weigh-in on the year in travel
The Internet is in the midst of year-end list madness. There’s even a great blog that makes lists of lists. Let us prolong the season a bit here, where Food Republic editors and contributors weigh-in on the year in travel.
Simon Ford | Drink Ford Tough columnist
Favorite work trip this year: My favorite work trips were...dinner at Noma in Copenhagen (where I bumped into Matt Rodbard on the Noma kitchen tour; he was interviewing Rene Redzepi at the time). Dinner with Francis Ford Coppola at Inglenook Winery in Napa, where I stayed for a weekend (still want to write about that trip) and I stayed for one evening at the Ice Hotel in Lapland on a visit to the Absolut Vodka distillery. It was a really great year.
Favorite vacation trip this year: GoldenEye in Jamaica for my birthday tops my list of holidays this year. Sipping Vesper Martinis and Blackwell’s rum while pretending to live the Bond life (without the explosions) for a few days was amazing.
Best hotel food/drink experience: Matthias Dalgram, at The Grand Hotel in Stockholm, for dinner. Also, afternoon tea at their Cadier Bar. Both were luxurious. For drinks, I am torn between the exquisite cocktails I drank at the award winning Artesian Bar at The Langham Hotel in London, or sipping Cuba Libres and Daiquiris at the National Hotel in Havana.
Favorite new city to travel to for food: Copenhagen — Noma, Relea, Giest, Radio, Manfred’s. And if I am not being contemporary enough then it would be Helsinki, but Copenhagen keeps going from strength to strength.
Best/worst airline experience
My experiences of flying domestically were all pretty bad this year, although flying American from Chicago stood out as a favorite — but only because Rick Bayless has a sandwich shop at that terminal. Flying British Airways to London was great also. Their Lounge at Terminal 5 in Heathrow in London is always a treat.
Where do you want to go in 2013
I am really interested in drinking at Le Coq, Tony Conigliaro’s new bar in Paris. And I have been hearing great things about the menu at Dabbous in London. Travel-wise, I would like to head to Peru and Thailand — and I must make a trip to sample the cuisine and mezcal in Oaxaca, Mexico. I can’t believe I haven’t been there yet.
Emily Saladino | Writer
Favorite work trip this year: I'm not a driver, so canvassing Greater Los Angeles for meetings in February was both personally and professionally challenging. But it was worth it to sample the incredible corn salad at Gjelina, solid beers at Mohawk Bend and rather controversial pastrami sandwiches at The Cure.
Favorite vacation trip this year: It's a tie between an impromptu jaunt to Barcelona in the winter (why hello, low season fare sale!), and a long weekend in Cape Cod for my brother's wedding in August. Shellfish figured pretty prominently into both trips.
Best hotel stay: The Singular Patagonia in Puerto Natales, Chile had me at hello. A former meat processing facility, the sleek, 57-room spot has unparalleled ties to the country's culinary history. It's also got a killer breakfast that begs the question: why can't one start every day with fresh-squeezed strawberry juice?
Best hotel food/drink experience: New York City's The NoMad serves what may just be the world's best roast chicken. It serves two and comes to the table stuffed with black truffles and foie gras, so bring a friend with a good appetite and an open mind.
Favorite new city to travel to for food: It's not a new pick, but I am continually excited about culinary outings to Queens, NY.
Best/worst airline experience: It may occupy one of the least appealing terminals in LAX, but Virgin Atlantic is just such a charmer.
Where do you want to go in 2013: I am awfully excited to hit Cartagena next month. Plus, I'm crossing all fingers that 2013 may just be the year I make my dream of eating my way around Beirut a reality. Here's hoping.
Jason Kessler | Writer
Favorite work trip this year: Pebble Beach Food & Wine. I loved the whole vibe of the weekend — it felt like mini-camp for foodies. I wrote a few articles, ate fantastic food and drank some Dom that was older than I am. I can't wait to go back.
Favorite vacation trip this year: Turks and Caicos. When you're in an enormous beach house in the Caribbean with an on-call butler, you can't complain about anything for the next year. At the brand new Beach House, I had an incredible meal from chef Eric Vernice that was as elegant as it was surprising.
Best hotel stay: Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort in Fiji. Everyone gets their own bure (beach hut) and the staff to guest ratio is something ridiculous like 45 to 1. Add a shockingly good menu and the fact that you're in Fiji and you'll never want to stay anywhere else. Runner up: The Meadowood in Napa.
Best hotel food/drink experience: Ray Garcia's "Feed Me" menu at FIG inside the Fairmont Miramar in Santa Monica. It's half family-style dinner/half tasting menu and it's all great. Garcia's doing seasonal American with a modern Mexican twist and it all works.
Favorite new city to travel to for food: Perth, Western Australia. I had no idea that Perth was the equivalent of late-1800s San Francisco, but this boom town boasts world class food (there's a Nobu!) and with the mining industry filling everyone's pockets, it's just going to get better and better.
Best/worst airline experience: Best: Business class on Air Pacific. It may not be the nicest airline in the world, but it was under $100 to upgrade to business class and the difference in service between classes is remarkable. Worst: Qantas. After a luggage snafu, the last thing I expected was for the Baggage Assistance lady in Perth to continually insist that my lost luggage was entirely my fault. Not cool, Qantas. Not cool.
Where do you want to go in 2013: Buenos Aires, Tokyo, Barcelona, Sao Paolo, Seoul.
Chantal Martineau | Writer
Favorite work trip this year: Traveling around Mexico with Richard Sandoval. We went to Puebla and learned how to make mole and had an amazing meal in Guadalajara at a place called I Latina that could have been in Brooklyn. And we drank more tequila and mezcal than I care to (or can) remember.
Favorite vacation trip this year: I go home to my native Montreal regularly, but this year’s trip back for my bachelorette party was epic. Not puking-in-the-strip-club-bathroom epic. But my girls and I ate at Joe Beef, then went on a wine bar tour that I’ll never forget.
Best hotel stay: Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa.
Best hotel food/drink experience: Three-way tie: Quinta das Lágrimas in Coimbra, Portugal for its excellent food and Portuguese wines. John Besh’s Borgne at the Hyatt in NOLA. And the Wythe Hotel’s Reynards in Brooklyn.
Favorite new city to travel to for food: Mexico City
Where do you want to go in 2013: Oaxaca, Detroit, Scotland, Jerez and L.A., which I haven’t been to in too long.
Jess Kapadia | Food Republic Associate Editor
Favorite work trip: Singapore. I ate more than I ever thought my stomach could hold at once, met one of my all time favorite food heroes, ate half a dozen iconic Singaporean dishes and set live prawns on fire. If ever there was a culture centered around food, Singapore is it.
Favorite vacation trip: India. I hit Mumbai hard, eating everything from the least logical street food on earth to hardcore eight-course feasts from Mumbai restaurant mogul Rahul Akerkar's fine dining havens.
Best hotel stay: This one also goes to Singapore, with Chicago's brand-spanking new PUBLIC as a close second. Ian Schrager does it again, folks. Singapore's Shangri-La Hotel was so spacious, tranquil, calm and beautifully furnished in the heart of a hyper little city that it was really hard to avoid spending time in my room. And if the breakfast buffet wasn't worth mentioning, I wouldn't be mentioning it.
Favorite new city to travel to for food: Austin. The FR editors hit the road in April to attend the Austin Food and Wine Festival, where we of course enjoyed the featured chefs' offerings. But we also enjoyed a taco massacre at Torchy's and about a jillion margaritas all over the place. I'd go back for the food alone, but the nightlife is pretty damn solid.
Worst airline experience: Austin! The airline lost my luggage with my chef's knives and bathing suit, so I couldn't even lounge by the pool while I waited for my test kitchen gear to arrive. Silver lining: wandering around.
In 2013 I want to go to: Copenhagen. I have a friend doing her Fulbright year there now and have heard very good things about her food and beverage exploits. Plus, I have a good chance of getting a reservation at Noma, and I'm not mad at that. Until my credit card bill comes.
Matt Rodbard | Food Republic Contributing Editor
Favorite work trip this year: Two come to mind. I spent a few days in Hobart, Tasmania — which is one of the coolest small towns in the world. Sort of like Madison, WI with way better food, breathtaking harbor views and a freaky deaky modern art museum that is most certainly worth a visit. The other is Copenhagen, which compelled me to write a bunch of stories and plead with my wife to visit again sometime in 2013 (it’s almost on the calendar!). The Danes are the most effortlessly cool people you will meet. Plus, they know how to eat and drink — and drink more into the night.
Favorite vacation trip this year: In early May (late in the season), I spent a few days at the Korakia Pensione in Palm Springs. It's a Moroccan-styled villa with a gorgeous pool and tranquility. It was no iPhone zone for a few days. And if I ever find myself in a rehab situation, this is where I’d like to dry out.
Best hotel stay: I loved my room at the St. Regis in Aspen, where I decompressed after a thorough pickling at the Food & Wine Classic. The Crown Metropol in Melbourne is hardly the city’s top hotel, but my airy, minimally designed room — and the strong pots of plunger coffee that arrived at my door each morning — was all I needed. Plus, there’s a casino off the lobby and a great noodle bar in a nearby mall. I found myself at both spots, late, a few of the nights.
Best hotel food/drink experience: Mar’sel at the massive, cookie-cutter Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA was a complete surprise. Wonderfully composed, seasonal, pure California cooking. It's a hike, but worth it. The breakfast buffet at the modest Ibsens Hotel in Copenhagen is the essence of Denmark laid out across multiple tables: rows of smoked fish sandwiches wrapped in paper, muesli and jam, cups of yogurt over ice, four kinds of fruit juice and, of course, great coffee.
Favorite new city to travel to for food: Los Angeles! I spent some serious time there this year and kept finding myself downtown. Other L.A. highlights: Superba, Osteria Mozza, My Taco, Sapp Coffee Shop, Red Medicine, Sweet Salt Food Shop,
Best/worst airline experience: Best: Qantas business class. Just decadent. Worst: I found myself on U.S. Airways at some point that I wish to forget.
Where do you want to go in 2013: Brazil, Atlanta, San Francisco, Israel, Vietnam, Korea, Hungary.
Richard Martin | Food Republic Editorial Director
Favorite work trip this year: Without a doubt the most surprising was London, a city I hadn't been to in almost a decade, and which has traditionally been a laughing stock of the culinary world. Granted, Rodbard and I were there to drink, but we ate surprisingly well at places like Hix and the Young Turks at Ten Bells pop-up. I also enjoyed returning to the place where I spent a good part of the past five years, Miami, where I had a nice long chat with one of my favorite restaurateurs in the world, Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine.
Favorite vacation trip this year: I made my annual pilgrimmage to Paris for Thanksgiving. It's a bit more challenging now that my wife and I have an infant daughter, but getting to see the City of Light through her little eyes is an amazing experience. It also means we rent apartments with nice kitchens and take advantage of the incredible markets, cheese shops, butchers and fishmongers around Paris. This time, we hosted a Thanksgiving dinner (serving pumpking gnocchi), and found a babysitter so we could dine out at La Plaza Athenéee, where the truffles, yellow wine and cheese sent me into a trance-like state.
Best hotel stay: In London, I tried out the Thompson Hotels' first European entry, the Belgraves. It's in the tony Belgravia neighborhood, and while I thought it'd be snooty, I ended up loving the 'hood and the hotel, which is an oasis of chic bohemian elegance in the middle of
Best hotel food/drink experience: While back in Miami, I stayed at the gargantuan Fontainebleau and returned to Scarpetta. As editor of Miami magazine in 2009, I named it one of the city's best restaurants, and I was curious to see how Scott Conant's outpost was holding up a few years hence. I was thrilled to find that the quality hadn't dropped an inch, and that his mind-blowing spaghetti has the same tangy bite as always.
Favorite new city to travel to for food: Los Angeles! I have to agree with Rodbard here: Los Angeles is a place I could go back to again and again for food, and I wouldn't have said that three years ago. I'm also a big advocate of the Hudson Valley. You can have eminently satisfying, locally sourced meals at restaurants in Hudson, Philmont, Red Hook and Rheinbeck — and the city of Hudson is about to go even deeper when Zakary Pelaccio opens his new restaurant there, probably by spring.
Best/worst airline experience: Best: Delta first class from LAX to JFK; even the food was pretty good. Worst: Air France keeps letting me down; the nearly 4-hour delay on the return from Paris, with little explanation, was unacceptable.
Where do you want to go in 2013: Tokyo, Argentina, Asheville, San Francisco, Scotland, Portland (Oregon and Maine), any small towns in Italy.