2023 was incredible to us in unsuspected and meaningful ways!
As the year draws to a close, I can’t help but reflect on the unforgettable culinary journey we embarked on this year that went way beyond the streets of #Chicago.
Here is a quick recap and a list of my top three favorites:
1. Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain
2. Apron in Vienna, Austria
3. Gaudir in Mexico City, Mexico.
A Delicious Melange
Our year started with bubbles and a waltz in Vienna, where I fell hard for melange- a very light cappuccino-like drink. Coffee always seems to be consistently mind-blowing here, and I have not found anything quite like it outside of Vienna. Beyond the beans, I believe the secret might be in the quality of the city’s water. Food in Vienna surprised us by being equally fantastic, affordable, AND ubiquitous. I developed a taste for street-side Wiener schnitzels and sampled the array of sausages available. There is definitely pastry prowess in the city, and I visited Gerstner for cake and spiked coffee many, many times during our stay. Many of the most popular places in Vienna have long waiting lines. Consider this as you plan your visit. We discovered that Gerstner has an impeccable operation and is conveniently located right across from the Opera House.
We celebrated my birthday at Apron, which was a revelation. Set against the backdrop of the city’s historic charm, this restaurant offers a modern interpretation of Austrian cuisine. The elegance of its décor matches the sophistication of its dishes. I am partial to unpretentious excellence, and Apron excels at this. Each course was a masterpiece, meticulously prepared and exquisitely presented, showcasing the best of Austrian flavors and seasonal ingredients with a contemporary twist. Service is absolutely world-class, and there’s an open kitchen, so you can feel like you are part of the action. Don’t miss it if you ever visit! It won’t disappoint.
Some Stops in the U.S.
In the U.S., we got to visit Atlanta, where we remember a fascinating Persian meal at Rumi’s Kitchen with friends. Later, we returned to my old stomping grounds in Memphis, where I missed the barbecue this time but went for the legendary popovers at Paulette’s. We made a stop in Nashville, where we waited for hours for the Maíz de la Vida taco truck to start serving their delicious birria consommé and tacos.
We also traveled to Santa Barbara, where we most memorably had a bespoke picnic by the ocean at the Rosewood and enjoyed asada tacos at famous (and on Julia Child’s favorite list) La Super Rica.
Later, our travels would take us to the incredible Barcelona. I had no bad meals in this beautiful city and fell hard for Vermouth to the point I had to import a few bottles from Celler del Remei. I discovered Suizos, thick chocolate with clotted cream, at historic La Pallaresa; we enjoyed delicious fried boquerones and wine from barrels at La Plata and sampled award-winning establishments like Paradiso and Maleducat, which I still have to write about. All FANTASTIC! Barcelona, by the way, has a legit #taco game!
The Unforgettable El Celler de Can Roca
BUT, the #1 highlight of 2023 was the unforgettable we made to one of the best restaurants in the world, three-Michelin star Celler de Can Roca in Girona. Renowned for its creative approach to Catalan cuisine, the Roca brothers’ knowledge and passion for gastronomy is evident in every dish, which was, at the same time, a feast for the taste buds and visual art. At the end of the meal, we met celebrated pastry chef Jordi Roca, who generously let us take a few pictures with him. I will hold this experience dear to my heart forever. The place is impossible to book, and rightfully so. We were lucky to have a little help from some friends. THANK YOU! If you visit, set some time aside to explore the medieval city of Girona, which serves as a backdrop to some scenes in #GameofThrones. Girona is a tiny city, and finding transportation is not that easy, so it is best to plan ahead. We had to walk quite a bit and eventually found a local taxi company. Luckily, Spanish is my mother tongue, but it took some effort.
A Taste of Catalunya in México City
The holidays took me home to Mexico City, where I visited a mix of all-time favorites, new restaurants, and taco stands like El Vilsito in Colonia Narvarte; we particularly loved Raíz and the famous Cantina Limantour. I will write about these later! The culinary highlight of our trip to México City was Gaudir in Colonia Anzúres. The tiny little restaurant stood out with its traditional recipes (yes, I was looking for a Catalunya fix). Mexico is such a rich culinary destination, and I always go for Mexican cuisine when I am there, but I am so glad I strayed this time! Our Catalán friends recommended this destination and helped us arrange a party for Enrico with a special menu featuring oxtail cannelloni and a foie gras bite so delicate and delicious that we have been remembering for days. This place is newer, and it is not located in any of the leading food corridors, so go before it is discovered if you are in #CDMX
A big shout out to all of our friends, old and new, and to our families for making this year an unforgettable one, and while we are looking back with profound gratitude for all the gifts we received this year, we do not forget for a second that people around the world are suffering.
What are your favorite culinary experiences of 2023?
May 2024 bring you and yours much peace, wisdom, health, and abundance.