2014 Best of Food from Our Travels

The Optimist Hush Puppies

Up next in our Best of 2014 are this year’s highlights from the meals and drinks we’ve enjoyed the most while traveling. (Our favorites for our home state of Maine will be up tomorrow.) It’s no easy feat choosing just one favorite from many trips that often revolve around eating, but here are some of this year’s standouts. We clearly enjoyed eating our way through the southeastern US this year, but can you blame us? There’s a lot of good food to be had down there these days. We hope this list helps with your own travel planning for 2015. We’d love to hear some of your favorite food destinations in the comments below!

Cocktails

Michael: Our drinks at the James Beard nominated, poolside craft cocktail bar, The Broken Shaker, certainly lived up to our expectations.
Meredith: I have the vanilla-infused spiced rum, and velvet falernum Sailor’s Delight from The Optimist to thank for my tiki cocktail craze this year.

Appetizer

Michael: We had a wonderful time sampling the Southern farm to table cuisine at Empire State South, but the “In Jars” selection of spreads (pimiento cheese, bacon marmalade, catfish rillette, and more ) was brilliantly delicious and a great way to show our friend from Germany a taste of the south.
Meredith: After polishing off the last one at The Optimist, I found myself wondering why all hushpuppies aren’t served “beignet-style” with cane syrup butter and powdered sugar.

Entree

Michael: The decadent braised short rib (with a side of the macaroni au gratin, of course) at Poole’s Diner in Raleigh, North Carolina was the ultimate way to end a fantastic day spent exploring the city.
Meredith: My friend, Betsy, prepares some of the tastiest scallops I’ve ever eaten in my life, and I’m positive even she would love the scallops at Empire State South just as much as I did this past spring.

Dessert

Michael: With deliciously creative flavors like Birch + Marshmallows and signature flavors such as The Milkiest Chocolate in the World, we were in heaven at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams – so much so, that we may have indulged two nights in a row…
Meredith: The famous ice cream sandwiches at Miller’s Union definitely lived up to the hype.

Brunch

Michael: What more could one want while vacationing in Vermont than a plate full of blueberry pancakes topped with delicious Vermont maple syrup? The pancakes at Topnotch were so good, I ordered them two days in a row.
Meredith: Our tasty post-hike brunch at the Prairie While this summer was, hands-down, my favorite of our meals in Great Barrington.

Lunch

Michael & Meredith: One of the many meals we enjoyed while eating our way through Charleston was lunch at Xiao Bao Biscuit. The casual ‘Asian soul food’ restaurant struck us with its bold style and amazing dishes.

Bakery

Michael & Meredith: Even after visiting three (!) other bakeries in Charleston, we still managed to return to Brown’s Court Bakery three times. Everything – the croissants, the sticky buns, the cinnamon rolls, the charming building, and the friendly staff – made Brown’s Court the perfect bakery experience.

Wine Shop

Michael: Wine Authorities is a comfortable neighborhood wine shop in Raleigh (and Durham) with a very knowledgeable staff and a great selection of estate wines based on an even greater concept – every bottle in the store is less than $50 because “wine should be enjoyed, not collected.” That’s a mission I can easily get behind.
Meredith: In the 30 minutes I spent in Kingston Wine Co., I witnessed a dozen or so people walk through the shop, eager to hear the opinion of co-owner Michael Drapkin about which wine they should select. It became immediately apparent just how much of a community Michael and his wife Theresa have created within their shop, a store that is undoubtedly worthy of planning a trip to Kingston, NY.

Dining with Orvis

Michael & Meredith: The fact that we could eat outside with Orvis at Topnotch during both breakfast and dinner easily secured many future visits to this fantastic dog-friendly resort in Stowe for our little family.

Experience

Michael: Food wasn’t the concentration of our time in the Scottish Highlands, but dining in the old stone crofter’s cottage overlooking Loch Dunvegan at the famous Three Chimneys restaurant on Isle of Skye turned out to be one of the more memorable dining experiences of my entire year.
Meredith: It’s hard to beat the combination of fresh fish tacos and a tasty mojito underneath the palm trees at Morada Bay Beach Cafe!

Decor

Michael: The food was so good that I ate at The Dogs twice during my relatively short time in Edinburgh (once with my co-workers and once with Meredith), but the unassuming, low-key feeling of this restaurant, tucked away in a loft, with its quirky dog-related art, is one of the reasons I insisted on bringing Meredith here for our single dinner together in Edinburgh.
Meredith: Stepping into The Ordinary is an almost surreal experience. The oyster hall on upper King St. has plenty of classic charm and many leftover details from its history as a bank, including the vault from which the raw bar is now served.

Food Destination

Michael: We ate and ate and ate (and ate some more) in Charleston and there wasn’t a single meal during our entire four days there that didn’t excite us. Since our February trip, even more amazing spots have opened up, making this a food destination to which I cannot wait to return.
Meredith: Tagging along on Michael’s work trip to Atlanta was one of the best decisions I made all year. While he was working during the day, I managed to go from restaurant to restaurant and somehow kept just enough room to enjoy dinner with him each evening. Everything was delicious!

Overall Meal

Michael: Set in a rustic mill quite literally on top of the river, everything about Hen of the Wood seems classically authentic to the locally-sourced and chef-owned mission it’s based around. Each part of my meal, from the heirloom tomatoes, to the bluefish toast, or slow-cooked rabbit was deliciously prepared and carefully presented.
Meredith: As if the multiple mentions on this decently short list weren’t enough of a hint, my dinner at The Optimist was easily one of the more memorable meals of my life, and reason enough for anyone to put Atlanta on their list for 2015.

Broken Shaker Miami Beach

The Optimist Cocktails

Empire state South pimento cheese

Poole's Diner Mac and Cheese

Empire State South Scallops

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Atlanta

Miller Union Ice Cream Sandwich

Prairie Whale Brunch

Topnotch Resort Stowe

Xiao Bao Biscuit Lunch

Xiao Bao Biscuit Charleston

Brown's Court Bakery Charleston

Wine Authorities Raleigh

Kingston Wine Co. NY

Topnotch Resort Stowe

Fish Tacos at Morada Bay Beach Cafe

Morada Bay Beach Cafe

Three Chimneys Isle of Skye

The Three Chimneys Restaurant

The Dogs Edinburgh

The Ordinary Charleston

The Ordinary Charleston

Pimiento Cheese Husk

JCT Kitchen Shrimp & Grits

The Optimist

Hen of the Wood Waterbury

All photos taken by Meredith Perdue for Map & Menu.

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