2013 was another exceptional year of dining for me. I got to travel a fair amount and it was my travel that wound up dominating this list. October and January were particularly memorable months for me and as good as those months have ever been for me personally. My January exploits started in Madrid and continued through Holland, Belgium and France. April took me to Florida and a fantastic trip to Chile. October was entirely within the United States, but perfect weather and dynamite cooking throughout made it my best food month of the year and one of my best ever. Below is my very subjective list of my 25 most wonderfully memorable restaurant meals of 2013. It was my great fortune that many a fantastic meal wasn’t able to squeeze on here. I also did not include “special” restaurant meals with guest chefs or specially arranged meals in wineries or homes.
- Saison – 10/15/13 – San Francisco, CA – Chef Joshua Skenes takes the highest quality products and bring them to their absolute utmost in flavor and texture. He is a genius in the way he blends flavors that allow them to both shine individually and synergistically and in particular with the mouthfeel he coaxes from the food.
- L’Arpege – 2/1/13 – Paris, France – It is no wonder That Allain Passard has the reputation and the influence that he has.This was a nearly flawless meal, that highlighted pristine ingredients and allowed their inherent perfection to shine through.
- Atera -10/2/13 – NYC – My second visit to Atera was even better than my first & that’s not faint praise. It clicked on all cylinders with just the right amount of formality.
- L’Air du Temps – 1/27/13 – Liernu, Belgium – Precise, delicate flavors, beautiful technique and original combinations and presentations in a new setting made for a sublime lunch.
- DiverXo – 1/20/13 – Madrid, Spain – Fresh, original and delicious, Chef David Muñoz’ Asian-Spanish hybrid cooking soars!
- La Grenouillere 1/26/13 – Madeleine Sur Montheuil, France – It took white knuckle, night time driving through snow-drifted desolate French country roads to get there, but the end result of Chef Alex Gauthier’s reinvention of French cuisine was worth it.
- De Librije – 1/24/13 – Zwolle, Holland – De Librije is luxury in every respect, not the least of which comes from the quality of Chef Jonny Boer’s 3-Michelin star cooking and some of the best gin based cocktails I have ever tasted.
- In de Wulf – 1/25/13 – Dranouter, Belgium – Many are copying Chef Kobe Desramault’s inspired rustic-chic cooking, but few, if any, do it better. An adventure to get to in the winter, this meal would possibly have ranked even higher had we not been faced with a wintry hour and a half drive to our next destination.
- Boragó – 4/5/13 – Santiago, Chile – Brilliant chef Rodolfo Guzman uses the native larder of Chile like no one else. His food is natural, unique, of the place, cerebral, beautiful and delicious.
- Birch -7/8/13 – Providence, RI – I already knew that Chef Benjamin Sukle can make delicious food, but at his new restaurant, the space matches the food, which has matured into something truly special.
- Casa Botín – 1/23/13 – Madrid, Spain – I hadn’t been there since 1974, but this classic hadn’t changed. Its suckling pig remains heavenly.
- J&G Grill – 4/2/13 – Miami, Florida – Antonio Bachour’s desserts were the reason we went. They alone would have been worth the trip, but Chef Richard Gras’ savories were outstanding too.
Aubergine – 10/16/13 – Carmel-by-the-sea, CA – Justin Cogley has made a beautiful inn in a beautiful place a true culinary destination with creative, beautiful and unique contemporary cuisine that is very much of its locale.
- Cafe Boulud – 5/11/13 – NYC – Classic, but still contemporary, beautiful and delicious. A meal like this never goes out of style, especially when we had our whole family together.
- Benu – 10/11/13 – San Francisco, CA – Precise, but creative and delicious, Corey Lee’s cooking brings out the best of San Francisco.
- Husk – 10/25/13 – Charleston, SC – Sean Brock has the magic touch
- Aqui Esta Coco – 4/6/13 – Santiago, Chile – Pristine seafood with species unlike any I have encountered anywhere else and great company in a fun setting made this an extraordinary meal.
- Betony – 9/4/13 – NYC – Bryce Shuman is a master craftsman of food, achieving incredible flavor depth and balance in his cooking.
- Saturne – 1/31/13 – Paris, France – Generally excellent cooking and two brilliant dishes made for a very enjoyable meal.
- Pescado Original, Mercado San Miguel – 1/22/13 – Madrid, Spain – A single dish, perfectly cooked a la plancha, huge carabineros were as wonderful as they could possibly be. Too bad I stained my jacket with the juices. It was a shame to waste such delicious flavor.
- Rancho Doña Maria – 4/6/13 – The central part of an extraordinary day of eating in Chile, this was a dusty roadside stand with fabulous clay oven baked empanadas and some of the most delicious and succulent pork ribs I have ever had. Their Chilean Salad (marinated tomatoes and onions) was also remarkably refreshing and delicious.
- Contra – 12/5/13 – NY, NY – Delicious, creative food at a reasonable cost in a nice atmosphere in NY? Nice concept that comes to fruition at Contra.
- Meson de Patagonia – 4/6/13 – Santiago, Chile – When we walked in and I saw whole lambs roasting over an open fire, I knew this would be great and it was.
- Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier – 7/5/13 – Kittery Point, ME – Pitch perfect two and a half pound lobsters in a beautiful coastal setting makes for a great meal and a great evening.
- Clifton Inn – 10/4/13 – Charlottesville, VA – Chef Tucker Yoder is preparing creative and delicious seasonal food with nary a flaw. Our meal at the Chef’s kitchen counter this fall was stellar. This is a chef and restaurant that deserves much more recognition than it gets in the national food media.
For a list with photos of my Top 15 Dishes of 2013, please see this article on Eater.com.