2010: Most Memorable Food Moments

by Matt on December 28, 2010

Boy.

Whew.

Damn.

As I sit here and let out a massive sigh and reflect on 2010, I can’t help but feel dizzy. Elated, exhausted, spent, happy but definitely dizzy.

And it’s been one of the best years of my life.

In the past twelve months I traveled. I wrote a book. I photographed. I spoke. I lectured. I listened. I learned. I worked my ass off. I spent 3.268 months on the road. I laughed more than any human should be allowed, and I even cried just a little bit.

I made new friends. I turned 40. I realized that everything I’ve ever done has led me to this point of my life, even when I hadn’t a clue. I realized the best is yet to come. I realized I’m old enough to know better but still young enough to do it (I think).

I realized that being in business for yourself is what makes me happiest even if it’s scary as shit most days.

And I did it all with one of the most beautiful people I could ever hope to know: my talented, gorgeous, plane-delaying husband.

I can’t even really summarize what this year has been for me in anything other than general terms. It hurts my brain if I tried. Suffice it to say that more has happened in the last 365 days than in the last 10 years of my life.  I’ll leave it at that.

But perhaps the most important thing about this year and this blog is you. Yes, you. Readers and friends, the ones who stop by and engage me, teach me, entertain me, leave comments, send messages. And what, you thought I was blogging just for me?  To you I offer my heartfelt gratitude. It’s you that keeps me here.

And I thank Gwyneth Paltrow, too. I really do.

Rather than work on highlights I’ll just select my most memorable meals of 2010. The flavors of these moments, the memories, and the company in which they were shared will forever be important to me. Let’s jump right in, shall we?

1. Tortillas, Mexico

In January we headed to Mexico for the Food Blogger Camp in Ixtapa, Mexico where I successfully lived off of fresh corn tortillas for 5 days. And a few margaritas, naturally. Back in January I wrote:

A great tortilla is a marvel: warm, fluffy yet dense with a chewy texture and true corn flavor. One bite and you begin to curse the grocery store variety for its lack of character and its boring uniformity. Luckily for all of us we were treated to glorious handmade tortillas three times a day: as the base for a hearty huevos rancheros, wrapped around tender lengua for lunch, and as an ancient utensil for folding around mole de pollo for dinner. And the tortillas de maiz were just so perfect that no plate ever went uncovered with at least a few thrown on top for good measure. Many times I’d tuck spoonfuls of fresh guacamole inside, top with a sprinkle of salty cotija cheese and dollops of cool-yet-picante salsa y nada mas. A perfect lunch.

That pretty much sums it up. I’m looking forward to the hunt for marvelous tortillas next month as we return to Mexico yet again for another Food Blogging Camp. Can’t wait to see everyone!

2. Coq au vin A la Biche au Bois, Paris

I tend to order coq au vin every time I see it on a menu which means I’ve had plenty of so-so versions of this dish. It seems I can never pass up chicken, wine, onions, mushrooms and lardons even when I suppose I should. I’m happy to say that my dish at this Parisian spot hit the mark. Thanks to David for taking us and to read his review of A la Biche au Bois here. It was a perfect Paris evening!

3. Lunch Tarragona, Spain

Last summer while speaking at a conference we joined our friends Denise, Cindie and Nico for a long afternoon lunch at Txantxangorri restaurant in Placa de la Font. It was simple and oh-so-Spanish, one of those moments when you can’t top the combination of excellent company, chilled red wine (yes, chilled), platters of potatoes, padron peppers and morcilla and quickpeas.  Was it the greatest Spanish food I’ve ever eaten? No. Was it one of the best moments of the year? Absolutely.

4. Adam’s Birthday Dinner Jitlada, Los Angeles

Have you been to Jitlada, the darling of Hollywood’s Thai town? It’s a favorite for those seeking flavor and lots of heat, but the southern Thai specialties towards the back of the menu stand apart from anything else. Fried morning glory salad, deep fried fish, green curry mussels, anytime we eat here is a treat. Add close friends and lots of beer to the mix and it’s super special. And yes, I was sucking the meat off the fin of that fish, I wasn’t about to let any go to waste. Photo by Wade Hammond.

5. Dinner and drinks Hotel Meurice, Paris

This past September I joined the team from Veuve Clicquot for the harvest in Reims. Before our trip to the champagne region we had a splendid dinner at Hotel Meurice that involved champagne (Veuve, naturally) and a dish of foie gras with hazelnuts and cherries. To this day I dream of that special evening, I really did feel like a kid in a candy shop. Beautiful hotel, delicious champagne, Paris. Do you really need anything else?

6. Deep Fried Candy Bars San Diego County Fair

Lest you think I’m a snob who is just picking meals so I can say “Paris, France” over and over again, I’d like to remind you that I can get down and dirty with the best of them. And while doing research for my upcoming book I finally had the chance to enjoy Deep Fried Mars Bars. And let me tell you the personal dilemma I have with them: how can something so inherently disgusting and trashy and over the top be so completely delicious? How? How? Someone please tell me. Because they are truly are tasty. And I hesitated including them here (and in my book but more on that later!) but jeez, I’m weak to their greasy spell.

7. Kimchi Jjigae All The Damn Time, our house, Long Beach

There’s not one specific moment that I can remember when it comes to this Korean tofu and kimchi soup. Even if there was it almost wouldn’t matter; this has been the most served dish at home this year and with good reason (the photo above was taken at BCD Tofu house, in case you were wondering.) Starting with a base of anchovy broth and water, kimchi is added, then gojujang, sometimes pork belly and always tofu. We’ll set out banchan, various little side dishes to serve alongside, and then eat the soup for days until it disappears. And of course it gets better with time. We’re both not sure why we are addicted to this soup so much. Man I need to visit Korea now. Who’s comin’ with?

8. Socca Chez Pipo, Nice

Life-changing. Simple. And what my dining pals didn’t know is that I was only being nice by sharing the large plates of socca in front of me that day. I wanted to order more, actually. Chickpea flour, some water, olive oil, a dash of salt make a batter that’s poured in a large flat cake and baked, with a few rakes over the surface during the cooking process. It comes out warm, gets sprinkled with more salt and devoured instantly. Perfect finger food. I could eat this every single day.

9. Laksa Singapore

Please file this under No-Matter-How-You-Try-You-Just-Won’t-Be-Able-To-Have-It-This-Good-Unless-You-Go-Back. A coconut-based curry soup with thick tender rice noodles, I knew I would fall in love with this instantly. And perhaps I could start practicing to recreate it as close as possible, but eating a warm bowl of this on the streets of Singapore will always make it taste better.

10. Pretzel Croissant City Bakery, NYC

While New York City’s City Bakery has been around for 20 years I can say I never tried their Pretzel Croissants until this past summer. And then I tried it again. And again. And one last time. And then again during my last trip. I can now see what the fuss is about with this perfect little treat that is well, yes, half pretzel and half croissant. But I’m no baker so please don’t ask me about it. Just watch me eat them over and over and over and over…

I want to wish everyone a very happy and healthy New Year, there are so many exciting things coming up in 2011! I hope you’ll join me!