This year had ups and downs but through it all, there were plenty of GOOD EATS. I ate my way through Copenhagen, the Faroe Islands, Chattanooga, Asheville, Chicago, Palm Beach, and of course, Atlanta. Here are this year’s 11 best eats — if next year’s eats are just as good I’ll be happy!
Sea Urchin at Koks Restaurant
The Faroe Islands
The Faroe Islands is a magical, remote archipelago between Iceland and Scotland. It’s isolated and painfully beautiful with dramatic mountains that plunge into the ocean…and has more sheep than people. It’s pretty amazing that they even have a Michelin-starred restaurant, but they do. It’s called Koks, and the whole dinner was an experience that lasted four hours. Each bite during the 17-course evening was surprising, fresh, and delicious but my favorite was the sea urchin. It was plucked from the ocean a mere few hours before dinner and had a lovely bright, clean flavor boosted by the pickled parsley stems served with it.
Guacamole and tostones at La Carreta
If working in East Cobb for two years taught me one thing it’s that the dining scene in East Cobb is lacking in local restaurants and creative dishes (RIP Common Quarter). Luckily, I found La Carreta, a Mexican-Colombian restaurant that’s not really in East Cobb, but close enough for me to get to on my lunch break. One of my favorite dishes there was a half order of tostones with guacamole. The tostones (fried green plantains, not sweet) were always crispy, not greasy and the guac was perfectly mashed (a little bit chunky, like I like it). I also loved their tacos but it’s these tostones that stick out in my mind the most!
Poke Doughnut at Poke Burri
East Atlanta Village
2017 saw a ton of poke shops open in Atlanta, but the best one is Poke Burri in the We Suki Suki Global Grub Collective. Their poke bowls are great, but why get a poke bowl when you can get a poke doughnut? It’s not just a visual gimmick, it’s actually delicious.
Cheese Fondue at Relae
If the chef’s counter at a Michelin-starred restaurant doesn’t cost extra, do it! We sat the chef’s counter at Relae in Copenhagen, and while the dishes weren’t more specia than regular seating, we were treated to delightful interactions with the chefs. How else would you learn that people in Copenhagen know two things about ATL: it’s the dirty south, and the Falcons lost the Superbowl. I’m not exactly sure they called this dish cheese fondue but it was basically really rich melted cheese served alongside fried artichokes. It was a hug in a bowl, y’all. If I could go there again and have only this dish I’d be over the moon!
French Fries and Ice Cream at El Ideas
It’s hard choosing where to eat in a city like Chicago — so many good choices! — but when I read about El Ideas and its chef, Phillip Foss I knew I had to go. I tried to make reservations for my August trip back in March, yeah, I know. Well, we finally made it and it did not disappoint! First of all, it’s BYOB. Second of all, Chef Foss and his team are wizards! The dish that made El Ideas famous is the “french fries and ice cream” inspired by his fast food runs with his kids. Who doesn’t love dunking their fries in ice cream? (If you haven’t done this at least once in your life you haven’t loved, go do that and come back.) This isn’t just ice cream and fries, though. It’s actually hot potato leek soup served with liquid nitrogen vanilla ice cream. Combine them and, wow! Somehow it works and I’m still craving it months later. Wish I had a better picture, guess I’ll need to go back and retake it.
Burger Stack at Au Cheval
I don’t do lines. I hate waiting for trendy food. I had heard about Au Cheval, its lines, and its burgers and nothing made my eyes roll harder than someone telling me I MUST go there on my trip to Chicago. That is until I met a darling couple at El Ideas who completely changed my mind. I was hanging out near the open kitchen and their seats at the chef’s counter (as they encourage you to do) and we bonded as food enthusiasts. They told me that Au Cheval really is a must-visit and the best way to do it is right when it opens at 10 a.m. Fortunately, Jon and I took their words to heart and arrived at Au Cheval a few minutes before it opened. There was a brief line (eek!) but once the doors flew open we were whisked to the counter and one of the most indulgent dining experiences of the year could begin. Keeping it light, we shared a single burger (that’s two patties) topped with egg and bacon (we were told that the bacon was a must) and the crispy potato hash with duck heart gravy. Does your heart feel a little bit tighter after reading this? I know how you feel.
Mozzarella Tomato Sandwich at Main Street Meats
I feel a little guilty sharing this sandwich with you. It was a seasonal special, so you’ll have to wait until summer if you want to order one for yourself. But, share I must. This beauty was simple yet delicious with mozzarella, local tomatoes, pesto, bacon, and bread from the bakery next door. If you find yourself at Main Street Meats and can’t order this sandwich, get the burger! It’s also delicious.
Peach Salad at Table
Sometimes the simple dishes really are the best. When I had lunch at Table in Asheville (one of the OG farm to table restaurants in Asheville) I was kind of surprised how much I loved this peach salad — but I shouldn’t be. It’s a delightful combination of summer’s best offerings: peaches, spicy peppers, fresh Stracciatella di bufala, and basil.
Chicken Pate on Brioche Toast at Spring
Spring quickly worked its way into my top 5 Atlanta restaurants, and it’s not even in Atlanta proper. Brian So creates works of art in this old train depot that rattles when a train flies by it. The menu is tight and changes seasonally as he honors the restaurant’s name. One thing that never changes, though, it the chicken pate on brioche toast appetizer. It’s decadent and when you get a bite that has pate AND jam it’s pure heaven.
Butter Poached Lobster at Bacchanalia
After living in Atlanta for four years I FINALLY made it to Bacchanalia, and in its shiny new location no less. It’s upscale but not pretentious and your eyes feast on the lighting from the windows and Edison bulbs as much as your belly does on the food. Of all the courses we had, the dish that stood out the most was the butter poached Maine lobster with morel mushrooms. Plump, tender, fresh and morels are always a treat.
Braised lamb at Aarastova
the Faroe Islands
Of course a country with more sheep than people knows how to cook those fluffy creatures. Aarastova braises lamb in beer for 12 hours and eating it is a transcendent experience. Fall off the bones and rich. Even when you feel like you’re about to burst you can’t get enough. It was served with a side of potatoes boiled in butter because why not?