The 15 Best Things I Ate in 2014, And the Absolute Worst

I know this post is um… a bit late. And some bloggers would’ve scrapped it all together. But you guys know how much I love food so I really couldn’t resist sharing.

Dear lord, in 2014 I ate well. So well that I just had to recap the greatest hits, because guys, there were many.

Whether I was in Madrid or Malaysia, or a London food market or ski-in Swiss restaurant or a Vietnamese street cart, I was chowing down on something delicious.

What I love too is that all of these meals brought back good memories, what is exactly what good food does. It’s personal. It’s emotional. It’s sentimental. It makes you smile, even in retrospect. 

Seafood Pasta // Murano, Italy

While I was disappointed by the food in Venice, on nearby Murano I had one of my favorite Italian meals of all time.

After a bit of sightseeing on the island, we moseyed into a little hole-in-the-wall to have lunch. A few spritzes later, out came a succulent seafood pasta brimming with razor clams, shrimp and mussels.

While I normally find seafood pasta ho-hum, this was anything but. Nom.

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Swiss Barley Soup // Grindelwald, Switzerland

For starters, I freaking love soup. I love everything about soup. I love that it’s homey and warm and wintery, and that you can sop it up with bread. Because carbs.

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But I especially love soup while sitting at picnic table in Switzerland, sipping a local pils and watching clouds drift lazily over the Alps. While the slopeside food in Switzerland was gourmet (Colorado, let’s step up our game please), this traditional barley soup dusted with dried wildflowers was the best thing I tried.

Swiss barley soup on the ski slope? 12 francs well spent.

 

Okonomiyaki // Brixton Village, London

As I rhapsodized rather extensively, London is a foodie wonderland. During my three weeks in the Big Smoke I ate more than I should have and frequented lots of food markets.

One of my favorite finds? This okonomiyaki at Okan in Brixton Village. Okonomiyaki is a savory pork and scallion pancake topped with fish flakes and spicy mayonnaise, and while the one I had at Okan was the first (and only) I’ve tried, I’m pretty sure it was top-of-the-line. I mean look at it.v

Bao // Netil Market, London

Seriously guys. That bao though. I can barely look at this picture without feeling sad and I wish I were kidding about that.

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I discovered this delicious creation at Bao Bar at Netil Market, where bao is the only dish on the menu.

The doughy bun was filled with slow-braised pork belly, pickles and cilantro and dusted with peanut powder, a dish that was not only delicious but visually and texturally appealing. Perfection.

Bread and Butter Pudding // East London

This bread and butter pudding was like crème brûlée on uppers: it had a toffee brown-butter flavor, a crispy crust and a luscious crème anglaise. As I wrote in my post, I was literally sighing with happiness over this bread and butter pudding, and that’s not even hyperbole.IMG_1291

Salted caramel tart // East London

Okay, okay. I know we’re all kind of over salted caramel and it’s en route to become as banal as chocolate lava cake. But this salted caramel tart was absolutely delightful: decadent, nuanced, chocolatey and topped with coarse sea salt. Plus, I had it at Pizza East, a super chic restaurant on the Eating London tour which I absolutely will return to.

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Cream Tea // Lincoln, England

At long last, last year I ventured to the North of England. Up north I tasted many English specialities for the first time: crumpets, Sunday roast and my favorite- cream tea.

Who wouldn’t love piles of buttery scones, moist lemon cakes and the best smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches ever, all washed down by a pot of tea?

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And the ambiance was bar-none- a quaint, timber-framed tea shop perched above a swan-filled river. How very English.

Smoked Mackerel with Poached Egg and Prosciutto // Brighton, England

It’s no secret that I loved Brighton– and after riding rollercoasters on the pier, I found my new favorite seafood restaurant, Riddle and Finns.

There I ordered smoked mackerel on a bed of colcannon, drenched in a sauce reminiscent of my beloved New England Clam Chowder, topped with a poached egg and crispy prosciutto. Yes.

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Bacalao // Madrid, Spain

Wow, bacalao. While as we all know, fresh cod is well, meh, salted cod is another beast altogether. (Geek moment- the history of cod is actually fascinating and I would totally recommend this biography on cod.)

Anyway, if you’re ever in Madrid head to Casa Revuelta for bacalao, a crispy, salty intensely flavorful cod creation that you should probably wash down with Mahou and enjoy with friends and/or Spanish strangers.

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Indian feast // Delhi, India

On my first night out in Delhi, my travel buddy and I beelined to Bukhara. Bukhara is one of Delhi’s fanciest restaurants, the kind of place the Clinton’s go when they’re in India.

While normally a raging tourist trap is the total opposite of my scene, I’m so glad I headed TripAdvisor in this case. At Bukhara McCall and I gorged ourselves on the best Indian of our lives: juicy, charred lamb skewers, vats of creamy dahl and buttery piles of naan. And at the end of our trip, we went to Bukhara’s sister restaurant in Agra for a near identical meal. In both cases, we struggled to walk after.

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Paneer butter masala // All Over India

During my six-week stint India, paneer butter masala was one dish that I ordered again and again and again.

I took the following picture at a roadside restaurant but it wasn’t the only place I had it- I became borderline addicted to the rich, buttery joy that is paneer butter masala. Accompanied by nan slathered in ghee, obviously.

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Duck Soup // Bangkok, Thailand

While abroad, I’ve been known to find one amazing Singaporean hawker center/Vietnamese street stall/rundown Italian café, and return daily. The following duck soup stall in Bangkok was no exception.

Truly, this duck soup may be the best dish on this list. While I procured it at a humble street stall across the street from Lub d Silom, it would’ve been at home in any self-respecting Michelin restaurant.

Slippery rice noodles, braised duck thigh, a smattering of herbs, the umami broth of dreams… can you blame me for having it every day?bangkok_noodles

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Pandan Noodle Dessert ??? // Penang, Malaysia

One of the things that delighted me most about Malaysian food was that it was all new. As I had never been to a Malaysian restaurant at home or abroad, Malaysia was my personal food discovery paradise.

While normally I research food very carefully, I have no idea what the following dish is. It seemed like pandan noodles topped with palm sugar and grated coconut and should probably be in every trendy restaurant ever.

If you know what this is- speak up- and please, send along a recipe!IMG_0036

Curry Laksa // Kuala Lumpur

Is this dish not just gorgeous? And not only gorgeous, but tasty. I could truly tuck into curry laksa every damn day.

Curry laksa was one of my favorite dishes in the two weeks I spent in Malaysia: a creamy, flavorful broth filled with deep-fried tofu, cockles and al dente egg noodles, all topped with chili paste. YUM.Two_Week_Malaysia_Itinerary_Curry_laksa

Bánh cuốn // Hanoi, Vietnam

I ate a lot of delicious street food while in Northern Vietnam in June: miến lươn (eel vermicelli soup), bún bò nam bộ (vermicelli with grilled beef), Hanoi-style phở, nem rán (fried spring rolls) and more.

But the best meal I had was bánh cuốn with bacon, mint and chili that I groggily procured one hungover morning.10502303_10202458931095076_5349817400597072481_n

The meatiness of the grilled bacon, the acidity of the lime vinegar, the fragrant crunch of the herbs… oh god. Take me back.

Though overall I definitely prefer southern Vietnamese to northern, and Saigon rather than Hanoi style phở, this Northern Vietnamese dish was hangover gold.

And to add insult to gastronomic injury- this dish cost 35,000 dong, or less than $2.00. That’s sales tax.

Worst meal of 2014: Nutella crepe (with black hair) and rotten eggs // Rishikesh, India

Hey, you can’t win ’em all. My worst meal of 2014 was by far this brunch from hell in India.

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The meal started with such earnest intentions- my travel buddy and I were going to enjoy a leisurely brunch on our one day off from yoga school. The waiter first dropped off the Nutella crepe, which I tucked into happily. It tasted… off, so I opened it to discover several long, black hairs.

Normally I brush off hair in food- it could be mine after all, right? But in this instance there was no way- it was too long and black.

So I turned to my eggs, which again, tasted off. I called over the waiter and asked, “Sir, are these eggs bad?”

“Yes, they are.”

“Um, what? Why would you serve me rotten eggs?”

He shrugged. “Because the man who was supposed to bring the eggs this morning never came. It is not my fault.”

So I paid the bill and left. Which in retrospect, why on earth did I pay? The result of this terrible brunch was, shocker- debilitating food poisoning. My travel buddy threw up in a bush and I went home to vomit violently for my entire day off. Good times.

 

A little late, but what was your best meal of 2014? Or more fun- your worst?

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About Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is a travel and lifestyle blogger who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Since college she has au paired in Paris, backpacked the world solo, and lived in Uganda. Her work has been featured by Buzzfeed, Forbes, TripAdvisor, and Glamour Magazine.

57 thoughts on “The 15 Best Things I Ate in 2014, And the Absolute Worst”

  1. holy yum! I never would have guessed some of your best meals would have come out of England. That salted caramel tart looks so incredible. I’ll be in Malaysia around april and I cannot wait to just eat like crazy

  2. I love that you have so much food from the UK. Our food gets a bad rap but because we don’t have many specialities a) the ones we do have, we do well and b) we do everyone else’s food.

    PS. It’s still 2014 in some calendars as lunar new year’s not til February. ;)

  3. I could look at food photos all day long. I can’t even imagine how wonderful it would be to travel in India and just eat everything in sight! Although your story about the rotten eggs made my stomach churn. You’re right…you can’t win them all!

  4. So. Much. Good. Food. I’m a massive fan of Bacalo, too! My fave meal of 2014 was probably fresh seabass on the beachfront in Slovenia or some AMAZINGLY big king prawns in Barcelona.

    Ps. I’m so disappointed by that nutella crepe (I think I vomited a little in my mouth whilst reading…)

    • I really, really wish I could find bacalao in the states! Maybe we do have it and I just don’t know?

      And I had fantastic seafood when I was in Barcelona too- I had fried cuttlefish that I washed down with a cold beer- yum.

  5. I was so tickled at what the waiter said about the rotten eggs–Papa Lou too!
    The only food I know anything about is the cream tea. When Laura and I
    we’re traveling the countryside of England visiting the manor homes and
    Gardens we never missed one. Your photo brought back mouth watering
    Memories. It was good enough to eat! We were both intrigued with the
    pictures of all that interesting looking food—and like you, soup is one of my,
    favorites as is stew!

    Much love,

    Gamma

    • Yeah the Indian feast was super decadent because we knew we were about to go to yoga school and be vegetarian for a month! Honestly that meal was practically worth flying back to New Delhi for, no joke…

  6. My mouth is watering…at 8 in the morning :)

    While all these global foods look amazing if I could choose two (entree and dessert) I would have to go with the bao and salted caramel tart. I love sea salt in sweets!

    I really didn’t have any bad meals when I was in Peru, they were all pretty memorable. The best though might have been in Aguas Calientes, gateway to Machu Picchu aka tourist trap. The restaurant wasn’t anything too special but the lomo saltado I had was superb.

  7. I’m glad to see that you ate a third of your best meals in England :) And that I was present for a lot of them. That Bao. They are opening a restaurant this year and I REALLY hope it’s open when I’m in London in July…

  8. OH. MY. GOD. This list! This all sounds incredible. You are really great at ordering meals. :)
    Your worst meal? died laughing. That is so horrible but for the guy to just be like, “Yeah the eggs are bad.” WHAAAA?? Haha, so funny when stuff like this happens to REALLY make you understand how different the world is from the U.S.
    Oh, and frutti di mare in Italy is one of the best meals I have ever had in my life. I’ve had in a few different ways and they are all good. My favorite is gnocchi. :)

  9. This list is amazing and I’m currently drooling all over my keyboard! Although, reading about your worst meal made me want to vomit a bit. I’m heading to India tomorrow and if I see eggs or a crepe on any menu, I will be sure to steer clear, ha.

  10. Oh my God Ashley, that was the most envy- and hunger-inducing post I’ve ever read. I feel like crying over the fact that I can’t tuck into them all right now!
    Luckily, the story of food poisoning brought about by a hairy crepe and rotton eggs has helped me get over my loss! :)

  11. Such sensational food!
    Each one looks fantastic & great aroma jumps right off the screen!
    As for my best of 2014, perhaps a kangaroo carpaccio I made with smoked Gala apples, caperberries & arugula salad with raw elephant garlic. My grilled coffee dusted wild boar with red Hawaiian sea salt and olive oil may come in second or perhaps might be my favorite.
    As for my worst of 2014, a salad I ate out, with dressing that was so sickeningly sweet that I came home and put great sea salts all over just about everything in the house – upholstery nearly too – and devoured it all as to ‘change the script!’
    Beautiful photos and fun post!
    Cheers! – LB

  12. Ohmygosh literally all of your best foods look incredible, especially that bread and butter pudding! Also totally with you on paneer butter masala, surely there is no better Indian curry than that. My best meal last year had to be the thai banquet we made ourselves at a cooking class in Thailand, along with the many plates of char way teow I consumed in Penang, Malaysia. SO GOOD! I had a black hair+omelette incident a couple of weeks ago but thankfully nothing as horrifying as your experience!

    • I definitely liked char way teow but I thought it was so heavy in Malaysian heat! Now if we could have it in Denver’s winter, that would be another story. And I totally miss paneer butter masala!

  13. Worst meal in Rishikesh.. That’s so sad and awful experience. Sorry for that, Asley. We have this inbuilt in Indians to know which is best food around.
    1. Never eat road side food where ever you see. And best way to test a good restaurant or any food place is the number of people, specially women in their.
    2. How you feel the smell of food even outside far from a distant and even when it is served.
    3. No bright colors. too much red too much green isn’t good.
    4. If it feels good smell and looks presentable than taste it or Hell no.

    You were asking about this recipe at the end. This recipe is even made in South India. In most of the local language, it is called as “Shevayi/sevai” in Konkani community. It is even called as “Shavige/Shevige” in Kannada language of Karnataka state and “Kai Haalu” for Sweet Coconut Milk. Some who don’t know this just say as Noodles/Rice vermicelli with Sweet Coconut Milk.

    Some people make this Sevige/Shavige and use it for a different recipe, like Upma/Uppit
    (http://www.kannadacuisine.com/2009/09/shavige-uppittu.html)
    or
    Some do a porridge out of this. We call it Paayasa. A Sweet Dessert actually. Mostly made during festivals. And most favored and flaovured sweets.
    (http://www.kannadacuisine.com/2011/04/shavige-payasa-and-ugadi-2011.html)

    Some people just eat it with Sweet Coconut milk or any spicy curry or chicken curry or fish curry.

    How to make this Shevige is as in this link . North East part of India they use All flour or wheat to make it. And it mostly used in Chinese Restaurants as they locally call it for noodles. But this Rice made Vermicilli isn’t for long time storage but for different soft texture and for short period of storage.
    Most of the South Western part of karnataka places like Udupi, Mangalore or even in Kerala State you will get this food.

    http://udupi-recipes.com/2012/08/akki-shavigeottu-shavige-recipeidiyappam-string-hopper-recipe.html

    The preparation was as in this photo. If you come down to India again, I can invite to our home to show and you can make it too. It’s fun making this. I love it when helping my mom.

    http://www.aayisrecipes.com/breakfast-or-snacks/rice-noodles-with-sweet-coconut-milk-shevayisevai-and-rosu/

    Sweet Coconut Milk is made as this. We call it as Kai Haalu
    http://www.kannadacuisine.com/2009/09/kai-haalu.html

    Hope you enjoyed by so long article :D

  14. Your brunch with nutella crepe and rotten eggs in Rishikesh sounds absolutely gross, I am glad your other food experiences were the total opposite. Especially the salted Caramel tart, the Bread and Butter pudding and the Curry Laksa water my mouth.

    The best meals I had in 2014 were without a doubt two dinners I had with a chinese friend in Beijing (always great to have dinner with locals in other countries), but I also loved many of the Phở gà I had while I was in Vietnam.

  15. As if I needed more reasons to be stoked about London, you just gave me like five more. I don’t even know what Bao is but I want it in and around my mouth. Also, that Indian food gave me major hungerlust. This post is just mean! Haha

  16. Ouuufff was drooling right up until that last one! But seriously, so much yum through your year!! I love okonomiyaki so I’m heading back down to Brixton soon to try those – yum. Glad you shared all this deliciousness :)

  17. Wow. Everything looks so amazing! I love all of your photography, but your food photography especially is so detailed and makes me so hungry. Hope there is more Vietnamese food in both of our futures.

  18. That hair story is just gross! But guess in hindsight, these make great travel stories :)
    One of the best things I ate last year was pesto in Genoa, Italy. The sauce originates from there and every dish was truly memorable!

  19. Food poisoning is the worst! I had it once in high school during finals week. I had to miss an exam and then make it up. It sucked!

    I had a really good fish dish in Guatemala at a hostel at all places. But I think my favorite meal was actually a lobster roll here in Maine. Got to love living by the ocean!

  20. What a lovely list Ashley! I’m so proud that you found British food top of the list. As a British expat in Germany, I now appreciate English food more than when I was at home & the cream tea certainly makes me feel a little home-sick LOL!
    I totally get the Indian situation though with the crepes and the eggs. How awful, but not surprising unfortunately. My worst food poisoning situation ever, was in India. Over rotten eggs too, so much so that ’till today I don’t have eggs in restaurants that I don’t know, and certainly not fried!
    My best meals last year were too many to mention but I’ll say French food in Lille, street food in Chiang Mai, an excellent lunch at a small cafe in Bali, so good that I went there 4 times, and a homemade pastrami sandwich at a Jewish New York deli in Berlin!

    My worst: A banana- chocolate crepe in Bali. I hate bananas and I don’t like chocolate!

  21. I should have stopped reading before the last item of the list. What a horrible story, I don’t know how I would have reacted!

    For the rest, I totally agree with you, London is a foodie destination despite what a lot of people think!

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