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Pop the Cork – It’s 2023!

Discover our best bites, sips and trips in 2022.

Lisbon Fireworks

Happy New Year from Lisbon!

2022 was a crazy year. It started out quiet here in Lisbon. Then the tourists started arriving in February and didn’t stop until, well… they never stopped arriving.

Lisbon’s streets were suddenly filled from the Avenida to the riverfront and it seemed like every other week we received messages from friends, some close, some distant and some old, announcing their vacation trips to Lisbon. We loved seeing all of them (including some reading this article) but there’s still a tiny bit of us that pines for the desolation of Europe that existed during the pandemic.

But who are we to judge? We traveled this year too.

Selfie at Abbazia di Novacella in Alto Adige
We traveled a lot in 2022. Here we are in Alto Adige, Italy’s wine wonderland.

It all started when we got boosters in the first week of January. It wasn’t long before we traveled to Paris, London (twice), Madrid (once plus a tasty layover), Hamburg, Graz, Vienna, New York (twice), New Haven, Madeira, Central Portugal, Northern Portugal, Las Vegas, Tucson, Chicago, Philadelphia, Alto Adige, Milan and Bergamo.

We also got a taste of rip roaring tourism in our Lisbon home during an infernal summer filled with plenty of friends and even more sweat. Of course, we also ate our way through the year with plenty of pizza, sardines, wiener schnitzel and Italian beef sandwiches.

Before we close the chapter that was 2022 and glide into 2023, we want to share our best bites, sips and trips of the year.

Dish of the Year

Scallops at Chateau Briand in Paris

Saint Malo Scallops at Le Chateaubriand in Paris

Just when we thought we’d seen every cliched way to plate food from drags to drops to 3-D printers, leave it to Iñaki Aizpitarte at Le Chateaubriand to find a new way to plate scallops – surrounded by a turtle-like shell of sautéed endive. It was a cheeky, creative spin without any in-your-face gastronomic tricks. More important, the dish’s combination of sweet scallops, salty capers and bitter endive tasted great.

Dish We Never Knew About Until We Ate It

Backhendl at Der Steirer in Graz

Backhendl at Der Steirer in Graz

We’ve eaten great fried chicken all over the world but we’d never had wienerschnitzel fried chicken until we traveled to Graz. While this Austrian dish resembles fried chicken we’ve eaten at diners in the USA, Der Steirer’s crunchy well seasoned bird was a backhendl to remember.

Dishes We Loved Enough to Cook at Home

Polenta with Tallegio in Bergamo and Mexican Shrimp Cocktail in New York City

Adding creamy taleggio to rustic polenta? Winner. Shrimp cocktail in a sweet, avodcado, ketchup, clamato, chili sauce? Double winner. We loved both dishes enough to recreate them at home multiple times.

Best Dim Sum

Dim Sum at Rainbow Kitchen in Las Vegas

Rainbow Kitchen in Las Vegas

Las Vegas has one of the country’s best Asian food scenes and Rainbow Kitchen has some of the city’s best dim sum. Despite its suburban strip mall location, its dim sum was as good as any we’ve eaten in Hong Kong and maybe better. 

Best Donuts

Donut Duo at La Estrella Bakery in Tucson

La Estrella in Tucson

Food and Wine called La Estrella’s donuts the best in Arizona. While we haven’t eaten enough donuts in the state to confirm this accolade, we can confirm that the Tucson bakery’s donuts were some of the best we’ve tasted in the US and beyond.

Best Burger

Fuku Burger in Hands at Fuku Burger in Las Vegas

Fuku Burger in Las Vegas

We love Fuku Burger’s fun spin on burgers. Eating one satisfied our cravings for burgers and Asian food in one tasty bite.

Most Creative Ice Cream

Ice Cream Cone at Elis Ark in Chicago

Eli’s Ark in Chicago

Who says that super instagrammable food can’t taste great? Okay, we’ve said that a time or two. Eli’s Ark proves otherwise by creatively serving excellent gelato that doubles as edible art.

Best Japanese Food

Sushi Chef at Omakase Ri in Lisbon

Omakase Ri in Lisbon

Score one for Lisbon’s emerging Japanese food scene that gets better every year. Omakase Ri beat out some serious competition in international food cities like London and Las Vegas. We have yet to find a better value for world-class sushi anywhere.

Best Mexican Food

Fish Taco at Taqueria Pico de Gallo in Tucson

23 Miles of Mexican Food in Tucson

One mile of excellent Mexican food would be enough to make our heads spin and our hearts happy. Tucson has 23 miles of local spots serving tacos, burritos, quesadillas and more. We visited many for research purposes, proving why we love what we do.

Most Overrated Restaurant

Septime Dining Room in Paris

Septime in Paris

Due to its Michelin star and seemingly permanent spot on the 50 Best Restaurants list, scoring a reservation at Septime was an amazing feat that involved numerous phone calls and online attempts plus a lot of luck. Sadly, our lunch time meal didn’t justify our efforts. The globally inspired food was good and sometimes excellent but we can’t say the same about the service which was surly and rushed. 

Best Pastry

Maple Syrup Tartlet at Tapisserie in Paris

Tapisserie in Paris

Ironically, we ate our favorite pastry of the year at Tapisserie, a patisserie owned by the same team that owns Septime. We’ve eaten a lot of pastries in Paris and Tapisserie’s Tartelette au Sirop l’Érable stole our hearts with its buttery crust, maple center and dollop of whipped cream on top.

Best Pasta in Italy

Pasta at Osteria della Brughiera in Bergamo

Osteria della Brugheira in Bergamo

Osteria della Brughiera was our splurge meal in Bergamo. It was a special meal with a standout pasta dish that knocked us out with its tongue ragù, verdant green sauce and tangy mustard seeds.

Best Pasta Not in Italy

Corn Agnolotti at Esthers Kitchen in Las Vegas

Esthers Kitchen in Las Vegas

We  ate a lot of corn this summer including a sweet corn ice cream cone in Philly and lots of elote in Tucson. However, the agnolotti filled with corn pudding we ate at Chef James Trees’ Esther’s Kitchen was our favorite iteration.

Best Pizza

Pizza at Pizzeria Ristorante IL CORSO in Bolzanno

Il Corso in Bolzano

We didn’t just eat a lot of corn in 2022. We also ate a lot of great pizza in cities like Brooklyn, Vienna, Chicago and New Haven. However, the best pizza we ate was at Il Corso in Bolzano. We were surprised it was so good since every other pizza we ate in Alto Adige was just okay. Then again, Il Corso’s owner is from Naples so it adds up.

Our New Favorite Sandwich

Italian Beef Sandwich on Wrapper at Als Italian Beef in Chicago

Chicago’s Italian Beef

Somehow we never ate an Italian Beef sandwich in Chicago during our previous visits. We’re not sure how that happened but we made up for lost time by eating several during our most recent visit. We wrote a guide with our favorites if you’re curious to learn more.

Best Seafood We Never Tried Before

Limpets in Madeira and Aguachile in New York City (tie)

Limpets are funky yet tasty mollusks that look remarkably similar to abalone. Both shellfish are bottom feeders but distantly related species. They’re called lapas in Madeira and we enjoyed them enough to eat them twice during our visit. We also enjoyed our first taste of aguachile, the fiery Sinaloan twist on ceviche, that we ate in Jackson Heights in Queens, NY.

Best Sunday Roast

Sunday Roast at The Marksman in London

The Marksman in London

The Marksman has a downstairs bar that looks like a typical old English pub. But head upstairs and you’ll find a sunlit dining space where you can enjoy some of the best cuts of meat in London. That’s where we shared a gorgeous medium rare “Hereford Wing Rib” with sides of mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding and carrots. It’s also where we spent an outstanding Sunday afternoon in East London.

Best Tapas

Tapas in La Rioja

Bar Soriano in Logroño

We’re sure that the Champiñón a la Plancha con Gamba at Bar Soriano in Spain’s Logroño has caused many a chef to wonder “Why didn’t I think of that?” This simple pintxo featuring mushroom caps sautéed in plenty of butter (on the plantxa) and stuffed with garlicky shrimp may be one the best things we’ve eaten… ever. 

Best (Mostly) Vegetarian Meal

Beetroot Sushi at Arpege in Paris

L’Arpège in Paris

We’re obviously not vegetarian diners but that didn’t stop us from enjoying our mostly vegetarian midday meal at L’Arpège in Paris. Since Chef Alain Passard pulled out all the stops during our multi-course dining experience, we didn’t miss eating meat at all. 

Best Drinks of the Year

We also enjoyed some seriously good drinks in 2022. These were some of our faves:

Best Cocktails

Cocktail at Salmon Guru in Madrid

Salmon Guru in Madrid

We had fun time drinking fanciful cocktails at Madrid’s most lauded cocktail bar, Salmon Guru. Those cocktails stood out for their unique creativity and tasty flavors. We liken them to drinkable art.

Best Beer

Beers at Finailhof in Alto Adige

Finailhof in Alto Adige

Maybe it’s just us but good beer tastes even better with a good view. We experienced both at Finailhof plus a lot of tasty food. It was a winning combination.

Best Coffee Scene

Crafting a Flat White at Cafe Comet Furth Coffee in Vienna

Vienna

Finding excellent coffee is our top priority when we arrive in a new city. Though we were mostly successful when it came to finding good coffee this past year, Vienna’s vibrant coffee scene is the one we loved most. To be clear, we’re not talking about the city’s historic cafes. They’re great for dessert but not for quality joe.

Best Travel Experiences of the Year

Sometimes our travel experiences involve food and sometimes they don’t. These were some of the year’s standouts:

Most Bizarre Tourist Attraction

Bacalhoa Buddha Eden

Bacalhoa Buddha Eden in Portugal

35 hectares of buddhas in Portugal. Need we say more?

Tastiest Food Crawl

Pizza Crawl in New Haven

New Haven

We had a blast exploring the New Haven pizza scene. But why? Maybe it was due to the city’s unique pizza style. Or maybe it was because good friends Matt and Marie joined our pizza shenanigans. Obviously, it was for both of these reasons as we describe in our detailed New Haven pizza guide.

Best Museum

Prado in Madrid

The Prado Museum in Madrid

Visiting the Prado is a must for any visit to Madrid. There’s nothing like seeing Goya’s enormous canvases in person. Warning: No photos are allowed in the museum, ever! We were chased by guards after taking one indoor photo which is why we’re warning you now.

Epic Wine Region

La Rioja Winery

La Rioja

We suspected we’d like La Rioja since we appreciate the region’s big red wines. We were wrong. We loved this Spanish wine region filled with great wine, striking architecture and gorgeous vineyards. Now we suspect that our first visit won’t be our last.

Epic Scenery

Wine at Rebhof Kastelbell in Alto Adige

Alto Adige

Alto Adige is another great European wine region. And, while we loved drinking wines like Pinot Noir, Gewurztraminer, Kerner and Lagrein in Italy’s most northern region, we loved its epic scenery even more. As we quickly learned, the Italian Alps provide one of the world’s most beautiful backgrounds for tasting wine.

Our Hopes for 2023

Madeira Selfie

We don’t ask for a lot but we’re hoping for the following to happen this year:

  1. The End of Rotating Payment Screens at American Retail Food Counters
  2. The End of QR Code Menus
  3. The End of COVID (for real)
  4. World Peace
  5. Health and Happiness for Everybody Reading This Article

Okay, maybe we’re asking for a lot. But dreaming big is one of our specialties.

About the Authors

About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Disclosure

We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

Original Publication Date: January 2, 2023