Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Favorites, 2010 (Part 3, Eats)

I already feel incredibly fortunate to be able to do two of the things I love most for a living: writing and traveling. And by far, the best added bonus of that would be eating—really good eating.

This year was no exception when it came to memorable meals that satisfied my insatiable hunger for new tastes or, in some cases, a yearning for the familiar. While narrowing down my list of favorite eats from 2010, I remembered all of those flavors and, even better, the friends—both and newfound and old—that I shared them with.

While traditional notions of afternoon tea often involve the following adjectives—stuffy, staid and proper—the two such afternoon teas that I had this past year were anything but.

The first took place at The Moana Surfrider in Waikiki. Afternoon tea has become a long-standing tradition at this historic hotel, which first opened in 1901. While I was there, I simply couldn’t pass up the opportunity to savor its famous afternoon tea and I’m so glad I did. My favorite part? Topping off the freshly baked raisin scone with Devonshire clotted cream and silky lemon curd. And for dessert? A soothing scoop of lime-accented green tea sorbet.

The other afternoon tea that I had was truly gluttonous—but so worth it. After a winding stroll through Melaka, Malaysia, my cousin, her boyfriend and I paid a quick visit to the Majestic Malacca hotel, a boutique property that my cousin had previously reviewed for TravelAge West. While the hotel itself was every bit as beautiful as she’d described, I was even more intrigued by its afternoon tea menu. So, of course, we decided to give into our hunger pangs. What I loved most about this afternoon tea was its nod to both Eastern and Western traditions, from the crisp spring rolls to the buttery, flaky-crusted chicken-pot pies.

Wherever your travels may take you, you should make it a point to visit the local farmers’ market. And, if you’re on Oahu, you should definitely stop by the Kapiolani Community College Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. Favorite eats included kimchee sausage (on a stick, no less, for easy portability), fried green tomatoes and kalua pork sliders. Just be sure to come hungry.

I’ll admit: I’m not much of a biscotti fan. I usually enjoy my coffee completely unadulterated—black, or topped off with just a little bit of steamed soy milk at the very most. However, the homemade, dark-chocolate dipped biscotti that I had during a stop at the Waialua Estate headquarters on the North Shore of Oahu had me seriously rethinking that assessment.

Who doesn’t love eating a tamale, especially in the morning? My first breakfast during my trip to Costa Rica this May involved this satisfying tamale which, on the outside, seemed totally unassuming. But, once opened, it revealed slightly sweet roasted plantains, masa (corn), a fried egg and gallo pinto (rice and beans). With a side of Salsa Lizano and a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, what could be better?

Visiting a farm gives you a greater appreciation for what you consume. After visiting a dairy farm just south of San Gerardo de Dota in Costa Rica, I definitely had a much greater appreciation for all of the hard work that goes into making cheese, especially when it’s as tasty as the ones I sampled there.

This giant tostada-like shell, floating on a bed of guacamole, contained some of the most delicious ceviche I’ve had in a really long time.

If I had to pick my single most-favorite meal from Costa Rica it would be this: chorreadas (corn pancakes) topped with a dollop of sweetened sour cream and gallos (tacos) filled with a hearty helping of fried potatoes.

My nominee for best use of bacon: Nickel Diner’s Maple Bacon Donut.

My nominee for best use of avocados: the stuffed avocado salad, also from Nickel Diner.

When I wasn’t sightseeing in Singapore, I was usually eating, and eating really well, as demonstrated by some of my previous blog posts. One of my favorite meals involved Singaporean chili crab and pepper crab.

Nonya, or Peranakan-style cuisine was also a highlight, from delicate kueh pie tee and spicy otak-otak to saucy giant prawns and savory beef rendang.

Speaking of beef rendang … here’s a snapshot of my cousin, a true beef rendang connoisseur, enjoying her first Burger King beef rendang burger. She opted for the double.

The Indonesian-style beef rendang at Rumah Makan Minang was also delicious—and filling.

A standard-bearer for all future hotel welcome gifts, from the Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore: I especially loved the kueh lapis (nine-layer cake), made with alternating layers of butter, eggs and sugar.

My nominee for best way to enjoy a beer: from the luxury of a rooftop infinity pool.

My nominee for best lamb chops ever: the ones I had at Pearl River Palace at the Suntec Singapore Convention Centre, glazed with a wine reduction sauce.

My nominee for best use of chicken: chicken rice from Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice in Singapore.

If I could alternate between eating kaya toast and roti canai/prata, or maybe even xialongbao, for breakfast every day, I’d be a really happy—and most likely overweight—travel writer.

My nominee for best noodle dish this year: the char kway teow from Tang Fong food court in Melaka.

Lots of laksa: Nonya-style laksa from Donald & Lily’s in Melaka and asam-style laksa from the Chinatown Night Market in Melaka.

And last, but not least, the roast duck rice from Mei Wua, also in Melaka, made an ideal last dinner during my stay.

I can only hope for more amazing meals in the year to come. Until then, it might be time for me to hit the gym, just to prepare.

Next up, my favorite photos with friends …

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