While I travel often, this past year has seen me go to more places and cover more ground than ever before. I hit up nearly every major Latin American capital and even checked out a few unknown destinations like Montreal and Reykjavik. I tasted, sipped, saw, touched, and learned more in 2010 than any other year of my life. Here are my top 40 highlights:
1.) D.O.M. (São Paulo, Brazil) I have been wanting to go to Alex Atala’s temple of Brazilian food for several years and in June I finally made it. I ordered the Vegetable Kingdom menu, no meat whatsoever, which was paired with juices and fruit essences and it might be the best meal I ever had. D.O.M. is always on the list of the World’s Best restaurants, though since Atala swore off truffles and foie gras and switched to a strict repertoire of Brazilian/Amazonian ingredients I’ll guess that the restaurant moves into the Top 5 in the next year. Watch out Rení Redzepi and Ferran Adrià. Read my review here.
2.) Dill (Reykjavík, Iceland)I went to Reykjavik on an eating assignment with Departures Magazine (the article is forthcoming) in late September and this New Nordic restaurant that opened in early 2009 really blew me away.My meal ofwild goose breast and goose legs in beer, beetroot, apples, and crowberry sauce touched with rosemary powder is exactly why I hope to be spending much more time in Scandinavia in the coming year.
3.) Au Pied du Cochon (Montreal, Quebec, Canada)The waiter knew my friends were chefs and told us he would choose our plates. It started with eels caught that day and foie gras poutine, moved onto an entire pigs head, and ended with a butter and maple syrup soup.Food hangover the next day was severe.
4.) Le Pré Catalan (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) French chef Rolland Villard’s Amazonian tasting menu is a thing of beauty. It took years of research to create the 11 contemporary courses using mostly obscure herbs and almost impossible to source fish. Read my review.
5.) MV Aqua (Iquitos, Peru) This isn’t a traditional restaurant per se, though I couldn’t not include the meals I ate served aboard the MV Aqua riverboat in the Peruvian Amazon. The daily menus were created by Lima’s Pedro Miguel Schiaffino and use mostly Amazonian ingredients. See my photos here.
6.) Hernan Gipponi (Buenos Aires, Argentina) I visited Buenos Aires twice this year and beyond Peruvian restaurants, I really don’t see much that extends beyond beef. Until Hernan Gipponi in Palermo’s Fierro Hotel. The chef, formerly of the Bilbao’s Guggenheim, created a tasting menu started with Avocado sorbet and grilled mango, moved on to plates like Prawns with turnips and jasmin tea and Rabbit Confit, and then ended with several molecular desserts. Beyond brilliant.
7.) Mocotó(São Paulo, Brazil) On the outskirts of São Paulo, an hour cab ride from the center, is this 30 year old restaurant that is being rediscovered. Current chef, Rodrigo Oliveira, the original owner José Oliveira de Almeida’s son, incorporates modern techniques and presentations into the otherwise simple food of Pernambuco and pairs it with hundreds of types of cachaças. Their mocotó, or cow’s foot soup, will cure your soul. Read my review here.
8.) Amor Amar(Lima, Peru) I ate at this Barranco restaurant from Argentine chef Luis Alberto Sacilotto (renowned for his work at La Gloria) and Víctor Away Chang-Say (former owner/founder of Pescados Capitales) several times this year and with every visit it got better. I love the tuna tartar, lechon roasted in their clay oven, duck magret with aji amarillo risotto, and the Milhojas stuffed with lucuma. Read my review here.
9.) O. Fournier (Mendoza, Argentina) At a special event that brought in Michelin star chef Ralf Haug of Germany’s niXe into the kitchen, I was treated to a half dozen plates that weren’t just an excellent cut of beef, plus the spectrum of O. Fournier’s reserve wines.
10.) Brasil a Gosto (São Paulo, Brazil) The menu of chef Ana Luiza Trajan’s Jardins restaurant is based on a book she wrote that visited 47 different cities in the country. I savored every bite of my skewers of grilled cheese curd (queijo coalho na chapa) drizzled in sugarcane syrup, pork tenderloin with smoky jaboticaba cherry sauce, and the unique cocada. This is a restaurant I’ll visit again and again. Read my review here.
11.) Vera (Cartagena, Colombia) Inside Cartagena’s super cool Tcherassi Hotel+Spa is, Mario Batali alum Daniel Castaño’s killer coastal Italian restaurant. My secondi, the Maiale (suckling pig, fennel, broth, and honey) was one of the most satisfying dishes I have ever eaten. Read my review here.
12.) Lef Restaurant at Espejo de Luna (Chiloe, Chile)I heard about this strange restaurant set in a structure that resembles an overturned boat only days before my November visit.So remote that it is almost impossible to find (you can see Corcovado from the windows), but the menu at Lef that’s sourced locally from Chilote farmers and fishermen is beyond intelligent. Murtas, mussels, nalca, salmon, and lamb, oh my.
13.) Bonuar (Medellin, Colombia) Inside of Medellin’s Museo de Arte Moderno, Colombian Creole fusion restaurant Bonuar was a big surprise and was instantly one of my favorite restaurants in Colombia. Squid with Green Papaya and the Fu Fu de Cerdo (Pork cooked in coconut milk with green plantain puree) were revelations.
14.) Taqueria El Fogón (Playa del Carmen, Mexico) Walking around Playa del Carmen with writer friend Jordan Simon late one night in the hunt for some street tacos, we stumbled upon this open air taqueria that I soon learned was a cult favorite. A wood fired grill, lechon al pastor, made from scratch hot sauces, icy micheladas…all the right combinations for an incredible Mexican meal in a sea of overpriced touristy restaurants.
15.) Rockaway Taco (Queens, New York) When summer temperatures in New York reached above one hundred degrees Fahrenheit this past summer I made my first trip to Long Beach and stopped by this Rockaway taco stand en route. Never has a breaded fish taco been so satisfying.
16.) Mistura Gastronomy Festival (Lima, Peru)
17.) Palador 1900 (Arequipa, Peru)
18.) Fatty Cue (Brooklyn, New York)
19.) La Cabrera (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
20.) Locanda Verde (New York City, New York)
21.) Osadia (Santiago, Chile)
22.) Explora’s Posada de Mike Rapu(Easter Island)
23.) Al Frio y Al Fuego (Iquitos, Peru)
24.) Algodon Mansion (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
25.) La Sirena (Mancora, Peru)
26.) Fish Market (Reykjavík, Iceland)
27.) Zazu (Quito, Ecuador)
28.) La Pescaderia (Callao, Peru)
29.) Francis Mallman 1884 (Mendoza, Argentina)
30.) Malabar(Lima, Peru)
31.) Hakahanu (Easter Island)
32.) Silfur (Reykjavik, Iceland)
33.) El Mercado (Lima, Peru)
34.) Donde Teresa? (Mancora, Peru)
35.) El Huacatay (Urubamba, Peru)
36.) Mile End (Brooklyn, New York)
37.) Tanoreen (Brooklyn, New York)
38.) Xoco (Chicago, Illinois)
39.) La Kaleta (Easter Island)
40.) Limo Cocina Peruano & Pisco Bar (Cuzco, Peru)