Wednesday, January 3, 2018

At the end of every year, I try to do a roundup post of my favorite meals from that year. Well, this post is a few days late.

If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll know that food is pretty much my life. I work as a professional pastry chef, enjoy cooking meals at home regularly and simply love eating out, especially when we travel. It’s not uncommon for me to plan entire trips based around where we are going to eat, drink or even have a coffee.

Yes, I’m a little bit OCD when it comes to our trip planning. Still, we seem to have a good time and eat well no matter where we are in the world.

Despite 2017 being a year that both hubby and I worked like crazy people most of the time, we also found enough time to take several trips and enjoy some special meals together.

Dinner in Dubai on the Beach
Back in October 2016, I booked a really good flight deal from London to Dubai via Emirates for travel in March 2017. I figured after several gray months in London, we would be pining for some sunshine. At the end of March, we celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary by eating along the beach in Dubai at FISH, located in the Le Meridien Mina Seyahi on Jumeirah Beach. The meal featured several mezes and a classic grilled fish, but the scene, the service (provided by two Turkish waiters) and the reminder of our Istanbul memories made this meal very special. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect anniversary dinner!
Soaking up some sunshine at the Le Meridien Mina Seyahi on Jumeirah Beach.
A Girlie Girl Luncheon
Over the summer, an Aussie girlfriend came to visit us for her birthday, so I took her out for a fancy girls’ luncheon set in the elegant Petersham Nursery in Richmond. I’ve been dying to go here, but the vast greenhouse filled with garlands of colorful, blooming flowers, tatty bamboo shades and mismatched garden furniture means the nursery is definitely a girlie affair.

We kicked off our lunch with some fruity bellinis followed by fried zucchini blossoms (too large of a portion), mozzarella di Bufala with heritage tomatoes and nasturtium flowers, and char-grilled quail with peaches and fennel. All the dishes almost looked too pretty to eat! My favorite was the deconstructed Eton Mess with berries, meringue and rose petals.
After lunch, we had a wander through the summer flowers in the greenhouse and said hello to the nearby cows in the pasture.

Michelin-Star Lunch at Lyle’s
In September, another Aussie girlfriend and her husband came to visit. Since she is a fellow foodie, I surprised her with a multi-course lunch at Lyle’s, a Michelin-starred restaurant in the Shoreditch neighborhood of London.

We ordered six dishes to share: raw scallops with fairy ring mushrooms; girolles with an egg and salted gooseberries; sole fillets with fennel and brown crab; duck leg with pickled cherries; and lamb’s heart and liver with green strawberries. Every dish was meticulously plated with tiny garnishes of fresh herbs or sliced vegetables. We shared three desserts as well with the caramel ice cream and coffee meringue as the clear winner.
What’s wonderful about the exceptional service at Lyle’s is that the chef was willing to alter dishes for my friend since she has some dietary restrictions. Definitely a menu worth splurging for in London!

Turkish Dreams
As you may recall, in September, I had a wonderful foodie weekend in Bodrum, Turkey, and took part in the 3rd Annual Karaova Grape Harvest Festival. One of the trip’s highlights was enjoying a traditional köy kahvaltısı (village breakfast) with my new group of Turkish friends. You can read more about my experience at Etrim Doğa Restaurant & KöyKahvaltısı here.
A French Dinner Along the Thames
Later in September, we enjoyed a fancy French dinner at Le Pont de la Tour along the Thames in London. This elegant, 19th-century former tea warehouse alongside Tower Bridge was offering a special 3-course menu (plus a glass for champagne) for only £30 in cooperation with the Evening Standard, which usually offers restaurant deals a few times a year. What a bargain!

Although we had to wait awhile for an outdoor table, later we enjoyed stunning views of the City and Tower Bridge while eating our dinner. I can’t recall all the dishes we had now, but suffice to say, this restaurant is perfect for a special occasion.
A chocolate tart and a lemon curd/thyme shortbread dessert.
From our dining table, we saw the Tower Bridge open up to let a large ship pass through.
This was the first time I've ever seen the bridge open! 
Turkish-Cypriot Dinner
In December, we returned to Oklava with our German friends, who also enjoy food as much as we do. I like Oklava because Chef Selin Kiazim serves Turkish-Cypriot dishes that reflects her heritage. She also was a finalist in the 2017 series of Great British Menu, which I enjoyed watching, and she is one of the few female top chefs in London.

We shared several dishes including: spiced bread with date butter (sublime!), olives, grilled Cypriot hellim cheese, chili roast cauliflower with pistachios and red onion, lahmacun – flatbread with tomatoes and mincemeat and a vegetarian pide with cheese, kale, garlic and burnt cabbage. For dessert, we shared a generous portion of kunefe, my favorite Turkish dessert.
Festive Tasting Menus
We ended December with two tasting menus – one in York, UK, and the latter in Oslo, Norway.

In York, we dined at Park Restaurant, a Michelin Guide-recommended restaurant located in the Victorian-era Maramadukes Town House Hotel. While the service started a bit rough since the waiter seemed confused on how to make a basic martini, the delicious, well-plated food made up for the mistakes. By the end of the meal, we were on friendly terms with our server as he was doing his best to please us and served us a free round of drinks at the end. The Park offers a 6-course menu for £60 that also includes several amuse-bouche, so I think we ended up having 10 courses. I think the scallops and the duck breast entrée were my two favorite dishes of the night.
The Nordic countries are known for their Michelin Guide-starred restaurants, in particular, Noma in Copenhagen, which was ranked as the world’s top restaurant for several years. In Oslo, which has four Michelin-starred restaurants, we chose a less expensive option and dined at Arakataka, a modern bistro. Arakataka serves seasonal Nordic cuisine and offers a set menu of four courses for 495 krone (about £45).

Our main dishes were: salmon with dill oil and buttermilk, cod with sunchokes and duck breast with cabbage and lingonberries. For dessert, we were served sea buckthorn (a sour berry) sorbet with groats and a milky foam. This was one dessert that neither one of us liked. It was tart, gritty and just a bit strange. I’ll give Arakataka kudos for trying to use a lot of Nordic ingredients, but sea buckthorns should not belong in a dessert.
Overall, I can say that 2017 was a delicious year, and I can only hope that we have just as good of time in 2018 on our travels.

Happy eating in 2018!


My Traveling Joys

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jaz@octoberfarm said...

you two really know how to live the good life! all looks so amazing!

BacktoBodrum said...

I am very happy to see Etrim in there amongst some very high flying dining experiences.

Joy said...

@Joyce, ha ha...we just like to eat well and enjoy it! ;)

Joy said...

@Annie, Loved our experience at Etrim! Might plan a summer trip to Bodrum w friends. If we do, we are going there! :)