Seeing that we’ve shared a number of memorable meals over the past year, we decided to break up our favorites of 2013 with those we ate while traveling and those we ate at home in our own hometown of Portland, Maine. While it’s nearly impossible for us to select just one dish or dining experience per category, we managed to create the following list of the best food (and drinks!) from our travels we had in 2013. Hopefully the selections below will come in handy when planning your own upcoming culinary adventures!
Michael: It’s pretty hard to beat America’s oldest cocktail from a bar named after the drink, in its own hometown. Having a Sazerac at the the Sazerac Bar in the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans seemed to be about as authentic as one can get.
Meredith: Our friends Samantha & Graham surprised us by calling ahead and purchasing our drinks for my birthday at Lantern in Chapel Hill. The Junebug I ordered was not only a delicious Pimm’s cocktail, it was one of the more meaningful drinks I enjoyed all year long.
Michael: The Lousiana crab with heirloom rice at Coquette turned out to be one of my favorite dishes from our entire trip to New Orleans. Simple ingredients with powerful flavor put Coquette at the top of our dinner list for any return trip to the area.
Meredith: Eating heirloom salads during the height of summer is one of our favorite patio pastimes, but doing it with the style, creativity, and flavor that SoLo Farm & Table adds to the equation made me forget the comfort of our own backyard and savor every bite.
Michael: While planning this list, it surprised me how quickly the traditional assortment of nigiri and one tekka roll from Rockland’s Suzuki Sushi came to mind. We enjoyed a number of fantastic meals this year, but sushi from Suzuki was wonderfully fresh and perfectly prepared – opening my eyes to a while new level of sushi addiction.
Meredith: Not only was the raw yellowfin tuna on sticky rice with avocado and pickled jalapeno I had at Barndiva my favorite entrée of the year, it was easily the best dish I ate all year long. Quite a statement given the list of places we visited, but absolutely true!
Michael: This was a toss-up between two dishes from the same lake-side location. My apple cranberry pie and the sizable portion of Meredith’s almond and berry boo cake (that I commandeered for the betterment of Map & Menu) from Bresca and the Honey Bee were two of the tastier sweets from our non-Portland travels this year.
Meredith: We stopped by The Blue Pig twice in three days – once on our way into New York City and once on our way home to Maine. The creative homemade flavors of ice cream served inside this whimsical blue cottage were a memorable discovery for the two of us!
Michael: Eating pancakes and doughnuts like a local at Camden’s Boynton-McKay harks back to a small-town simpler time that anyone in their right mind could easily get used to.
Meredith: A meal at Peels has become somewhat of a regular thing for us when we’re in New York and I couldn’t be happier about this little unintentional tradition of ours. During our most recent trip I sampled the shrimp & grits for brunch – another delicious dish at the southern-inspired favorite.
Michael: Durham sure has changed in the 5 years since we graduated from school in the area, and nowhere is that more evident than Mateo Tapas downtown. I can’t imagine that you could go wrong with any item on the menu, but a lunch of tapas including the huevo diablo spanish deviled egg was a pretty excellent meal.
Meredith: I liken our lunch experience at Barndiva to our meal at Le Jardin du Quai in Provence – there’s something so luxurious about enjoying a leisurely lunch outdoors while traveling.
Michael & Meredith: Meredith seemingly fell in love with the town of Healdsburg as soon as we drove into it, but my feelings weren’t a lock until after a tasty lunch at Shed followed by an awesome cupcake (or two) and some macarons from Moustache Baked Goods.
Off the Beaten Path
Michael: When Meredith suggested a walk along the Mississippi to breakfast, I don’t think either of us had the 2.5 mile trek in the hot New Orleans sun that it took to get to Elizabeth’s in mind. That being said, our breakfast was well-earned and delicious, and the food and quirky decor of Elizabeth’s is more than worth the visit – just take our advice and grab a cab.
Meredith: Driving in and out of Clifton, we kept passing by a darling ivy-clad little market at an intersection in the country. It immediately piqued our interest, and it wasn’t long before we stopped into the well-branded Salt Artisan Market to see what this market was all about. They had literally just opened the doors for business and we had the chance to talk to one of the owners quite a bit about her plans for the market’s future. Salt is a perfect place to grab a sandwich or salad to go, or pick up a cheese plate for a picnic on one of the many hiking trails.
Michael: On our final evening in Sonoma, Meredith and I grabbed a tasty pizza to-go from Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg and then headed to the overlook at Lake Sonoma for a picnic. Although it was a little windier than we anticipated (almost knocking us over a few times), the laughter-filled meal, gorgeous sunset, great pizza, and delicious wine easily made this my favorite meal of the year.
Meredith: Shed was so much more than a delicious lunch in an inspired setting – the people who work there seemed to genuinely love both what they do and the food they serve. I was impressed with everyone we came into contact with while there, and of course browsing the beautiful collection of specialty food items and kitchen wares after a tasty meal only added to the Shed experience.
Michael: Eating outside at Barndiva seemed like the perfect blend of California and a garden in Southern France. From a small café table under the arbor, we enjoyed a delicious meal in the perfect California climate.
Meredith: I fully expected to love everything about The Butcher’s Daughter before we even walked through the door, after seeing the branding of the juice bar & cafe all over Pinterest was what first put The Butcher’s Daughter on my radar. What’s not to love about a bright white interior accented by punchy colors and eclectic furnishings?
Michael & Meredith: Driving almost an hour away from our hotel was an easy decision to make when the destination was South Londonderry’s SoLo Farm & Table. Pretty much the sole impetus for our entire overnight trip to Vermont, each course of our meal left a large smile on our faces. Fresh, local, seasonal, and prepared just-right, I think we’d both make the trip again in a heartbeat.
We’d love to hear some of your stand-out dishes or dining experiences from 2013 in the comments below. In the past, your suggestions have certainly steered us in the right direction while planning our own trips.