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Top 5 Fridays

Friday, December 16, 2011

I’m going to start trying some new formats on the blog, one of which will be more top 5 lists. They’re fun to write, and a good exercise in winnowing down our wealth of travel experiences into the best of the best. Our trip isn’t over yet, but we love reflecting on our ever-changing “tops” of the travel charts.

One of our favorite, constantly discussed top lists is best meals around the world. This one is particularly tough, but a few places do stick out and induce drools and dreamy looks when we reminisce about the experiences. I love desserts so much that sweet treats will be discussed in a future list; same goes for fun street snacks and beverages. So without further ado:

Top 5 International Meals of 2011 (not including the US or Europe

  1. Steaks in Argentina in general, and in particular at Don Julioin Buenos Aires. The steaks of Argentina have ruined us for eating it everywhere else in the world. Perfect meat, perfectly cooked, served with the perfect chimichurri sauce accompaniment.

    Argentina grill master hard at work

  2. Cicciolinain Cusco, Peru: this is where I got a taste of what it must be like to be so rich, you could eat at your favorite restaurant every day and not bat an eye. Their rotating lunch special features a homemade pasta with a perfect sauce – such as creamy gorgonzola cheese with grilled chicken – and a freshly made mint lemonade, for about $8 US. Not the cheapest meal we’ve had, but the quality is 5-star. We begged for cooking classes, and the host laughed and said the best she could do was for us to simply watch the open kitchen. We went every day that we were in Cusco, and sadly said goodbye the day we had to leave.

    Cicciolina in Cusco, Peru

  3. Andres Carnes de Resin Chia, Colombia: unlike any other restaurant in the world, this massive institution just outside Bogota wants you to have the BEST TIME OF YOUR LIFE whether coming for dinner, drinks, dancing, or all of the above. There are multiple dining areas, each heavily decorated with custom-made iron work that feels a bit Moulin-Rouge-esque, and each section has a dance floor. Guests are encouraged to get up and dance between courses. There are fun little treats and surprises awaiting you when you return to your table – like freshly chopped mango and coconut chunks, or a sunflower, or a roaming band wanting to play you a private song and shower you with confetti just “To celebrate you being here!” We went on Father’s Day and there were improv actors hugging male diners, shouting “Papa!” along with cheerleaders celebrating the dads. On top of all this, the food is fantastic and the music is pumping. This restaurant would do so well in Las Vegas or LA!

    Always a party at Andres

  4. The meal we cooked for ourselves at the Thai Farm Cooking Schoolin Chiang Mai, Thailand: there are loads of amazing, delicious, affordable food options all over the place in Thailand, but I was most surprised and delighted by the one I cooked up myself at an all-day cooking class. It was a revelation to me that I could create – with a little help from our excellent teacher and the perfect ingredients – a multi-course Thai meal as good as any I’ve had at a proper restaurant or street stand. And of course, I could control the spiciness. Tom Kaa coconut soup, pad see ew (my fave – stir fried large noodles with sweet soy sauce), green curry, cashew nut chicken, and bananas with coconut milk… mmmm. This was also where I was introduced to the magic of sticky rice, the food you are allowed to play with at every meal by grabbing in your hands and using almost like bread to sop up the stir fry.

    2 of the many courses I learned -- plus sticky rice -- at the Thai Farm Cooking School

  5. Park Hyatt Buenos AiresEaster Brunch: Okay, this one was a highly special occasion meal gifted to us by visiting relatives. There is no way this fits on any backpacking budget. But man, was it delicious. So we sit down after walking by the decadent buffet tables, and are handed a menu. “We order one thing from this?” “No, you order one thing from each of these 3 sections, plus whatever you want to drink – and champagne is included – plus the buffet.” oh, okay. And what about that table artfully dressed with boxed chocolates, easter eggs, and candies (the one next to the other dessert table with fresh cakes and mousses)? “You may take that to go.” Really? “Yes, whatever you like.” The chocolate from that buffet lasted us well into our next month of travel. The freshly cooked to order dishes were superb. The buffet items were fresh and unique. The desserts divine. A truly memorable brunch

    Chocolate to go at the Park Hyatt Buenos Aires Easter brunch

I am very surprised that upon current reflection, 4 of the top 5 meals were in South America. I wouldn’t have guessed that South America would beat out the Middle East, South Africa, Nepal, or more of Southeast Asia. It could be a reflection of our tightening travel budget, but whatever the reason – we both would happily return to any of these dining destinations, and will definitely attempt to recreate our Thai meal at home, when we someday have a kitchen again.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Friday, December 16, 2011 11:43 am

    I love the “Always a Party at Andres” photo… so colorful!
    ~S 🙂

  2. Milly Goldstein permalink
    Friday, December 16, 2011 11:48 am

    Glad to see the the Park Hyatt made your list. We agree it was delicious, but we also place the hotel on our top 5 places to stay list.
    Food is one of the reasons I don’t mind returning to South America. It’s delicious.
    Does Seth agree with your evaluation?
    Hope all is well with both of you. Happy holidays!
    Love,
    Herb and Milly

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