Best eats of 2013

My travels in 2013 gave me some very memorable eating memories.  Here are a few of the many great things I ate while away this year.

San Juan: Mofongo

Having now tried the national dish of Puerto Rico, I wonder where mofongo has been up to this point in my life.  This is a dish made with fried green plantains that are mashed with olive oil, garlic, some fried pig bits and then filled with meat.  While in San Juan I tried two versions.  The one on the left from Cafe Manolin, a 50’s style diner, was filling and delicious as I waited out a torrential downpour.  The one on the right from Restaurante Airenumo was a more upscale version and the best meal of the five days in Puerto Rico.

Vancouver: Vij’s

Vij’s was a bucket list restaurant for me.  For years and years, I’ve known I would eat here once I got to Vancouver.  This meal was perhaps the best overall meal from the year of travel.  Exceptional service and feeling like you were dining in someone’s home only made it that much better.  The food was sublime: flavourful, perfectly spiced, interesting and inventive.  Making this the perfect evening was getting a chance to say hi to Vikram Vij himself.

Prague: Beer cheese and fried bread

So this might be the most addictive food I ate this year.  I’m actually kind of glad this isn’t on the menu at my neighbourhood bar or I’d be about 100 pounds heavier.  This spreadable cheese, served with onions, garlic, butter and fried bread (yes, I said fried bread!!!) helped mop up more than a few pints over two weeks in the Czech Republic.

U Fleků

Vancouver: Tacos

What?  Great tacos in Vancouver?  I know, I didn’t believe it either.  Then, on my last day, I made my way down to a hole in the wall place called La Taqueria on West Hastings.   Simply the best tacos I’ve ever had.  Beef cheeks, beef tongue, carnitas, tinga de pollo, al pastor… I tried them all and loved each one.  So unexpectedly delicious!

Philadelphia: Paesano’s

The sandwich of the same name as the sandwich shop: tender pulled brisket, provolone, grilled tomatoes, hot peppers, horseradish mayo and a fried egg.   This was the best sandwich I have ever eaten and from now on will be the “not to be missed” place on my return visits to Philadelphia.

Paesano's

Prague: Pork Knee

There were two things I wasn’t getting out of the Czech Republic without trying:  the great pilsner and pork knee.  Wasting no time, on the first night and suffering from jetlag, I ordered both and to my amazement this showed up in front of me.  I came nowhere near finishing my meal, but enjoyed the experience of hacking away at an enormous chunk of pork on a spit.

Pork knee in Prague

Philadelphia: Israeli food at Zahav

Zahav has been on my list to try the last couple of trips to Philly.  Every dish I ordered was amazing.  On the left at the top, deep fried cauliflower with a chive/dill/mint sauce was a guilt-inducing pleasure.  So simple and perfect, I’ll be trying to recreate this at home for football Sunday snacking.  On the left at the bottom, roasted eggplant with dill, pomegranate and homemade cheese.  On the right, duck kabab stuffed with fois gras over saffron rice.

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