Thursday, January 05, 2006

2005: the "best" list

Shamelessly, I am nicking this post idea from Monkeydaemon. (It's the least he could do).

2005 was a pretty damn good year. Here are some of the highlights in the gustation category.

Best meal (ex-Italy). Meson el Marinero for a heaping pan of simmering lobster tails and new potatoes in Castro Urdiales, Spain. This is hearty, unpretentious fare. We ate like Spanish royalty for less than the price of a round of beers at a Manhattan bar. The cuisine of northern Spain has quickly become an all-time favorite. I can't wait for my return visit.

Honorable Mention: l'Etrave, Brittany, France. Located on the spookily desolate road heading to Pointe du Van (the lesser point of the Finisterre peninsula). If you find yourself at "the end of earth" (Finisterre), and the sunset is blazing, treat yourself to a fantastic fish meal here. But book ahead.

[Incredibly, neither restaurant has a Web site. Sometimes good food is more than enough to attract discerning diners. We lucked out and walked in and grabbed a table at both restaurants, adding to the unmistakable aura of divine intervention.]

Best meal (Italy): Tagliatelle in white truffle sauce at the annual fiera nazionale del tartufo in Acqualagna. 12 euros for a plastic plate of sinfully good pasta. Wash it down with a plastic cup of Sangiovese and you are in tuber heaven.

Best wine (white): Chateau Belair, 2003. Believe me, I have terrible recall for French wines, mainly because I am largely unfamiliar with the regions, but this one was an unforgettable Bordeaux, imbibed at l'Etrave. Magnifique!

Best wine (red): To Umbrians, vino "Sagrantino" is treated with reverence. Soon, the rest of the world will show the proper respect. I put a 2001 Sagrantino up against a Brunello at a wine fair in Rome in an unscientific taste test. My vote: the Sagrantino. No contest.

Best gelato: Gelateria Alla Scala, Roman neighborhood of Trastevere. What Cristian Carlostella does with frozen milk sugar, spices and fruits is nothing short of art. This man should be a candidate for cannonisation some day. His pistacchio and cinnamon are two miracles already.

Best Pizza: As chosen by an esteemed panel at the annual pizza party in May in Amandola: A pine nut/raisins/salt/olive oil with garnish of fennel number courtesy of Cristina Duranti. Che bella!

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