My favourite places will almost always be tied to my favourite food experiences – so I thought I would force myself to think about some of my favourite meals. So, in order of appearance – a few that stand out:
- My first taco in Mexico. There was nothing quite like that feeling of my first night in Mexico City – arriving at dark with a warm summer breeze, and venturing out for our first meal. We found a very local place in the centre of the city, and struggled to explain what we wanted (to the hilarity of the servers) and deal with this new foreign currency. Despite the confusion, I (hope that) I’ll never forget that overwhelming happiness that coursed through my veins of, finally, being in Mexico. Those tacos weren’t even that good, but oh god, the feeling made up for it. (I only remember feeling that overwhelmingly overjoyed a couple of times on this trip, and those memories become so special for me: the first time I went to Roberto Barrios falls in Palenque, and our first night in Havana).
- Taqueria Honorio in Tulum, Mexico. It took me so long, in the blazing heat, to find this place — I had read about it — and it was so great to sit down. I arrived about ten minutes before they closed for the day, just in time for a couple of cochinita tacos on red plastic coca cola tables, but those tacos were worth every moment of search. Probably the best meat taco I had while in Mexico – and so simple. Unnaturally pink pickled onions and a spicy green avocado hot sauce, with a dripping juicy taco – all you need in life, truly.
- No Name Quesadillas in San Christobal, Mexico. So good I went back time and time again. I remember talking about this when I discussed San Christobal – as it was really a highlight. No Name was set in the courtyard of a woman’s house, lit with candles on spindly tables – who served whatever was fresh and in season, between homemade tortillas. The food was incredible, but more than that – it was the atmosphere that made this place. A definite favourite, in a favourite city, too.
- I know it doesn’t entirely count, as it was a drink – but the Mezcal Margarita at Pinches Tacos in Puerto Escondido. It came with a few pretty incredible fish tacos, but this Margarita was incredible. The smokiness of the mezcal, with with chili and herbs, all processed as frozen margarita, was so so great. Also, I was with some great friends, after a midday swim, playing 500. What could be better.
- Sushi in Saõ Paulo. This was one of the most incredible food experiences – a tiny little 6 seater Japanese restaurant – the Sushi chef only speaking Japanese, the waitresses only speaking Portuguese, me only speaking English. But we got through the language barrier – and I was placed in front of me the most spectacular (and beautifully presented) sushi platter – all raw fish, of different varieties. Squished in with Japanese Brazilians, I ate this incredible meal, then walked around Saõ Paulo satisfied for hours. Another favourite city. (Another meal in Saõ Paulo, the feijolada, makes the list – incredible, satisfying Brazilian food – but I feel it’s unfair to take up my list with all of my meals in Sao Paulo. But it was great.)
- La Cabrera in Buenos Aires. I know it’s odd, but I love waiting for lines. On this particular occasion, we strolled in the rain in search of one famous Argentinian restaurant, but found (for the second night running), the place we wanted to go was closed. So we hurried to La Cabrera, infamous in Argentina for the best steak. We waited for the possibility of a table, and after a few “please, lets just wait for 5 more minutes”, we were given a table. A bottle of red, some fries and a huge steak later – we were uncomfortably full, and I was overwhelmed with joy. Incredible.
- Organika in Cusco, Peru. I wasn’t feeling up to much on the first night I arrived in Cusco, but forced myself to try out this restaurant I had been recommended. And it was one of those times when a simple thing can improve your outlook so immensely: I was sat at a table with a Canadian couple, got to talking, and ended up having such a nice conversation throughout an incredible dinner. I had a salad (one of the few), with sesame crusted prawns and a delicious lemongrass dressing, followed by a molten chocolate pudding (life is about balance, after all).
- Market fare in Cusco. San Pedro Market was one of my favourites, and my daily breakfast of arroz con palta y huevo was spectacular. Even more so the second day, when the market keeper recognised me and gave me an even better portion. I loved sitting, early in the morning defrosting from chilly Cusco, on the benches beside the market stalls, eating this delicious (if not particularly healthy, or normal) breakfast snack.
- Las Mesitas in Lima, Peru. A restaurant out of the ages: 70s decor, impressionist painting on the walls, a pianist playing as you ate, this place was extraordinary. We stumbled upon it, and ended up going three times. Although the main courses weren’t spectacular, the lemonade was divine, and the lemon meringue pie, stationed in one of those rotating fridges in the corner of the room, was the best I’ve ever tasted.
- The hot sauce at Rancho Relaxo. Home made from chillies growing beside the kitchen, this hot sauce was extraordinary. For the week that I was there, I went through bottles of the stuff – requiring it at every meal. Perfection.
I wasn’t even planning on only l0, but there you go — with perfect symmetry, my favourite meals, or at least, the ones that hold the most special memories. I think everyone knows that this trip was about food, (what part of my life isn’t) and I think I did a pretty good job trying it all.
Post Note: I just remembered another! Eating at the Mercado 17 de Novembre in Oaxaca City, Mexico. You go into a tiny hallway, full of smoke, shouting and raw meat, full of activity and confusion (on our part). Order some meat and they cook it for you, along with a couple of hot peppers and spring onions, and you order cheap sides – and rip it together (no cutlery here!) with homemade tortillas to create the most incredible wraps imaginable. Alongside incredible food, also an experience unlike any other. No longer symmetrical. Oh well, that meal was worth breaking into uneven numbers.