We rang in the new year halfway through my Japan series. It's hard to pick a favorite (food is so amazing in Japan, in general), but some of the more memorable posts would include the beautiful "best steak I've had in my life - Bryan Che" Wagyu steak at Ukai-Tei, homemade soba from our favorite authentic Japanese soba spot, and sushi at the difficult-to-book 2-Star Michelin restaurant Sushi Sawada.
Of course, the culmination of that entire trip had to be our visit to Sukiyabashi Jiro - we finally had an opportunity to be served by the revered sushi master himself. The experience was surreal, to say the least. It felt like we were living the movie, familiar yet completely foreign.
The sushi was as good as you might expect, though we didn't necessarily think it was better than our other favorite, Sushi Mizutani (Jiro's protege who also makes appearances in the movie).
2. Las Vegas
We took our annual trip to Las Vegas to attend the Consumer Electronic Show. It was a memorable Las Vegas trip, to say the least. We managed to get reservations at the whimsical and fun e by Jose Andres, where we enjoyed one of our favorite meals of the trip. We also had a delightful dinner at Le Cirque, where we probably had our first tasting of A5 Wagyu beef ever in the U.S.
But the craziest clincher? We randomly ran into President Clinton at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill at Caesar's Palace. No joke. We were as shocked as anybody. We had gone early (11:30am) since my friends were bringing their newborn along. Clinton walked in (with about 8 other people), said hi to us, and proceeded to sit at the table not too far from us. It was unbelievable.
Here's a fuzzy picture to prove it.
In March I traveled to Thailand for the first time in my life and I absolutely loved it. The people are super friendly, the city of Bangkok itself is fascinating, and the food is phenomenal.
We tried some incredible street food, such as the most famous pad Thai in the country, the best drunken noodles I've ever had in my life, and seriously tasty street food that was different from anything I'd ever had before.
In Bangkok I took a couple cooking classes where I learned so much about Thai cooking. It was super fun (and not too expensive at all!). I've shared every single recipe from those courses on this blog. To see all the recipes, click here and scroll down to the Thailand section.
Finally, I wrote a series of posts on some of the excellent "fancier" restaurants we tried in Thailand, such as the crazy high SkyBar (world's largest open air bar) where you can enjoy cocktails while looking out on Bangkok, or Nahm, number 32 on S. Pellegrino's 50 Best Restaurants in the world; Number 3 on the Asia's 50 Best Restaurants list).
April was a bittersweet month. Though I was fortunate enough to visit (and eat) in London with Bryan (and even meet up with another friend), our trip was most certainly clouded by the Boston bombings that occurred while we were there. It was an eerie reminder of 9/11 for me over a decade ago, when I was also in Europe, helplessly watching the devastation unfold in the U.S.
I responded by not only sharing my own feelings about the bombings, but also writing a tribute post to Boston, highlighting my favorite restaurants there. It has since become one of the most shared posts.
After returning to Boston, I took a short trip to beautiful Vermont, where I spent two days learning how to bake at King Arthur Flour's Baking Education Center. I'm working on eventually sharing with you all the wonderful tips I learned. For now, I've written just one post - how to make the perfect whole wheat scone.
6. Utah & Yellowstone National Park
In June we met up with Bryan's parents to visit Utah (his parents' old stomping grounds) before heading to Yellowstone National Park. I was mesmerized by the bubbling sulfurous lakes, plethora of shooting geysers, vast wildlife, and sweeping majestic mountains. It's utterly unreal how much beauty is packed into such a "small" area. A week wasn't enough, and I can't wait to go back and explore some more.
Summer was a season for weddings, and we traveled quite a bit for these out-of-town weddings. At the end of June we did a weekend jaunt to Seattle, where we managed to slip in a fantastic dinner at How to Cook a Wolf (not to mention bring home an entire Copper River King salmon from Pike Place Market!).
8. Washington D.C.
In July we visited Washington D.C., where we did classic touristy things like watch the fireworks at the National Mall and visit the various free museums (though I must say, I prefer Boston's fireworks!). Our favorite meal by far was the magical experience at minibar (another by Jose Andres!).
9. Cape Cod
On a last minute whim (after finding out we were not scheduled to play in the music team at church), we decided to head down to Cape Cod for a weekend, somewhere Bryan had never visited. We covered much of the island by bicycle, my favorite bike trail being the Shining Sea bikepath which connects Falmouth to Woods Hole. We devoured the best oysters we'd ever tasted right in Wellfleet, had incredible fried seafood at Mac's Shack, and took tons of photos of the beautiful cape.
10. Sonoma Valley
In early September we took an unforgettable anniversary trip to Sonoma Valley. We cycled throughout the vineyards, tasted dozens of seriously incredible wines at Sonoma County Wine Weekend, and enjoyed some fantastic food. On our actual anniversary day, we met the owner of Kamen Winery, who took us on a stunning personal sunset tour of his vineyard. It was breathtakingly beautiful, a once-in-a-lifetime experience I will never forget.
11. Martha's Vineyard
In October we visited Martha's Vineyard off-season. It was not only beautiful, peaceful, and quiet, we had a chance to also enjoy the Martha's Vineyard Food and Wine Festival, where we tried a bunch of great wines as well as sample delicious little bites from O Ya, Craigie on Main, and Tremont 647.
In October we also visited Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, a blog series I've just begun and still have a ways to go! For the first time, we did not go alone. Instead, we went with two of our friends who had never been to Japan. We brought them to all of our favorite places (plus many, many new places - everything from ramen to 3-star Michelin kaiseki cuisine).
In November we visited New York City over Thanksgiving, where we watched the Macy's Parade (boy was it cold standing outside for 3 hours!), enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving meal at Daniel Boulud's flagship restaurant, and had what Bryan calls "the best fried chicken I've ever had in my life" from David Chang's Momofuku Ma Peche. Those posts will hopefully be coming sometime in 2014!
14. Los Angeles
And then, just like that, December was upon us. We traveled to Los Angeles (Bryan's hometown) where I of course had my Din Tai Fung fix, my potsticker & handmade noodles fix, plus a visit to Little Tokyo.
In some ways the year felt like it flew by. Yet as I look back, I realize that a lot of stuff happened. I guess when you're busy you don't even notice the time flying by.
I need to remember to sit back and just soak it all in.
It's most certainly been one a heck of a year.
Before I sign off, I did want to share with you some of my favorite cooking/baking posts, as well as some of my favorite Boston restaurants that I discovered this year.
Cooking + Baking
I had tons of fun making these Chili Chocolate Domos (so cute!) and the extremely popular (not to mention easy and addictively delicious) matcha mochi cupcakes.
Spring was a great time to make all sorts of seasonal-inspired dishes, such as ramps pesto, garlic scapes pesto, as well as anything with asparagus and peas. Summer was the perfect time to experiment with my farm share, where I ended up making lots of healthy veggie stew with my pressure cooker. Winter I often turn to my pressure cooker, where I've made hearty and comfort type dishes such as this lamb osso buco or this delicious French Lentil Soup. We also often just pan fry Copper River King salmon (see above), grill Costco prime steak, or make noodles. I roasted a lot of farm share veggies this past year!
Favorite New Boston Restaurants Discoveries
Though I do travel a fair amount, most of my time is still spent here in my hometown of Cambridge, MA. We discovered lots of fantastic restaurants this year.
We were sad to see David Punch leave Ten Tables Cambridge last year, However, we were super impressed with his new restaurant Sycamore in Newton, which is certainly a valuable addition to the neighborhood. We had a delightful meal at Lumiere, thanks to a gift certificate from Bryan's co-worker. My friends and I also loved our girls night out where we sat at the chef's counter at 80 Thoreau.
I was pleasantly surprised by the level of talent that exists in the pop-up world. Bryan and I enjoyed a creative, whimsical, and sophisticated tasting menu at Whisk at 351 as well as an impressive blow-you-away 9-course tasting menu at the Dining Alternative.
We checked out the highly anticipated Kirkland Tap & Trotter, which most certainly lives up to the hype. Other new restaurants, such as Tavern Road and the soon-to-be-open Alden & Harlow, have solid offerings from experienced chef-owners who really care about the food they produce.
A few good-bys
We bid farewell to some longtime Boston institutions, such as Radius (and their famous burger!) as well as Upstairs on the Square, one of our longtime favorite outdoor dining spots in the summer. We will really miss these places, and look forward to what they might be bringing next.
All in all, it's been a crazy year, but I'm loving every moment of it.
Here's to a great 2014.
Happy New Year to you all!
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