Favorite Foods of 2014

2014 was a good year for food. It was a year that involved an unprecedented amount of travel, due to the record number of friends getting married this year, and many of their ceremonies took place internationally. As a result, this created many opportunities for interesting meals–breakfast sushi at Tsukiji market or unripe strawberries in Copenhagen are not experiences that can be easily had back at home.

While the international meals were memorable, the majority of my favorite meals took place in New York, and Kansas City and New Orleans weren’t too shabby, either. Honestly, with so many chefs training at the same restaurants and then setting shop elsewhere, you can find really good cooking anywhere. But that also means that many of the meals and food trends seem all too similar. It’s amazing how many small plates, Brooklyn-esque farm-to-table restaurants exist in the world.

I personally preferred those meals that still retained their regional traits to the ambiguous New World Global cuisine that proliferated everywhere else. So my favorite food moments in 2014 crosses many borders and price points, a reflection of the glamorous and janky meals that were unique to the cities I ate them in. In no particular order, here is a round up of my favorite foods in 2014.

1. the z-man sandwich from oklahoma joe’s in kansas city

oklahoma joe's - the z-man sandwich

2. the melt-in-your-mouth sea eel from nakamura in tokyo

nakamura - 18 sea eel

3. the epic peking duck dinner at decoy in new york

peking duck

4. the ricotta gnocchi from the eddy in new york

ricotta gnocchi with oyster mushrooms, squash, rosemary and hazelnuts

5. the husk meringue with corn mousse dessert from cosme in new york

husk meringue and corn mousse

6. the duck carnitas from cosme in new york

duck carnitas with white onions, radish and salsa verde

7. the duck fat rice with kale and chinese sausage from tuome in new york

rice with kale, chinese sausage and duck fat

8. the beef tartare from manfreds in copenhagen

beef tartare with watercress

9. the breakfast sushi from tsukiji market in tokyo


10. the omakase at sushi nakazawa in new york

nakazawa hamming it up with shrimp

11. the whitefish donburi bowl from ivan ramen slurp shop in new york

ivan ramen slurp shop - smoked whitefish donburi

12. the kale and wild mushroom risotto from gato in new york

kale and wild mushroom paella with crispy artichokes and egg

13. the lobster ravioli from cherche midi in new york

homemade lobster ravioli

14. the #1 bagel sandwich from black seed bagels in new york

black seed - sandwich 1

15. the butcher’s steak at st. anselm in new york (my pictures were so crappy and not post-worthy, but i would highly recommend that you brave the no reservation policy and make the trek out to brooklyn for this amazing piece of meat)

Copenhagen Travels: Casual Dining at Manfreds

For our last day in Copenhagen, we decided to take it easy and enjoyed a long, leisurely lunch at Manfreds, a casual wine bar affiliated with Relae. It happened to be gorgeous out, so we sat at the picnic tables outside and nibbled through the 5 small plates that were part of the “chef’s choice” lunch special. At 175 Dkk ($35), it was a relative steal compared to all the fine dining foraging premiums we had paid the days prior.

I was a little worried that the Relae association would mean more strange flowers and herbs in the horizon, but luckily the food here was a little more traditional and accessible. You can’t escape the foraging aspect entirely–they did throw in marigold flowers and pine needles–but these wild herbs were used to lightly season, rather than subvert, the dish.

carrots with pralines, pistachios and marigold
carrots with pralines, pistachios and marigold

Ruoxi sighed upon learning that the first dish was a plate of carrots–he is clearly more of a meat person. The carrots were nicely dressed in some olive oil and mustard, which helped make the vegetables seem more substantial. The marigold flowers were bright and surprisingly citrus-y, and the golden, nutty pistachios were delicious.

cucumber soup with crispy bread
cucumber soup with crispy bread

This soup was extremely refreshing–a light, cold puree that didn’t rely on tons of cream for some substance and flavor. The crispy bread pieces were very crunchy and satisfying, giving the smooth soup some nice texture.

manfreds - grilled cabbage3 dishes in, and still no meat on the horizon! Ruoxi was eating more and more bread by the minute. The summer cabbage and grilled pork was my favorite dish in the chef’s lunch. I loved the grilled char along the outer edges of the cabbage, and all the leaves tasted very fresh and crunchy. The mild, creamy dressing was very pleasant, and the crisp, rich pork nuggets were fantastic.

manfreds - aubergines
eggplant with herb creme and watercress stems

We surprisingly did not come across any eggplants in Copenhagen until today. Our first encounter was a very pleasant one. The roasted aubergines were very plump and substantial, and the decadent herb creme sauce emphasized the heartiness of the vegetables.

venison with venison sauce and pine
venison with venison sauce and pine

…and finally, a proper meat dish! A plate full of venison in venison sauce and sprinkled with pine. Only it was extremely gamey. I felt like I was eating dense venison liver full of iron. The pine needles did nothing to help offset the wild flavors. Needless to say, most of the venison went uneaten.

beef tartare with watercress
beef tartare with watercress

After 4 small vegetable plates and an unsatisfactory meat dish, we decided it was necessary to add on the beef tartare. It was the right call, because the tartare was brilliant. The meat was in such fine shape–a pinch of salt and pepper was all that was needed to bring out the flavors, which was on par with anything cooked. The thick layer of creamy horseradish sauce was so rich and rewarding, while the bread crumbs and watercress helped keep the richness in check.

If you’re keen to do the wine pairing, just note that Manfreds tends to choose wines with “natural” characteristics. You’ll taste volcanic ash, granite and all types of terrain in each sip, but it goes very well with the meal. We were satiated and slightly buzzed by the end, and we took a moment to savor our food coma, since we were in no hurry to leave this wonderful city.

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