For the first time this year, Eater has asked several globetrotting restaurant bloggers to share their 15 favorite dishes of 2013. Next up: Elizabeth Auerbach, known for her blog ElizabethOnFood, who shares her picks from London to Paris to Germany below. See also: The top 2013 dishes from John Sconzo, AKA Docsconz.
The average person spends six years and 10 months of a lifetime eating, the statistics say. Since I started ElizabethOnFood.com in 2010, I have at least added a couple of months to that number and I have to admit that in 2013 I spent an inordinate amount of time in (Michelin starred) restaurants. This year has been exceptional; I have eaten my way through Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Britain/London and I have even made two flying visits to Switzerland and Italy.
My best dishes of 2013? I have visited some 150 different restaurants in seven countries this year, so selecting the 15 best dishes is not an easy task. The top five I knew instantly, the other 10 I really had to give some careful thought. Here goes.
At the beginning of the year I had already decided that Germany would be my main focal point in 2013. A beautiful country that has experienced a real gastronomic renaissance in the last decade. Until now I had primarily visited the three-star restaurants but I thought it was time to do an 'in-depth' tour of the Northern part of the country, with Hamburg, the Isle of Sylt and Berlin warranting particular attention since this part of the country has seen a significant growth in the number of two-starred restaurants in the last couple of years. It was a great experience.
In a way, 2-star restaurants can be so much more interesting than 3-stars, because the range of experiences can be very wide; in one happy instance I discovered Germany's newest 3-star restaurant, a couple of months before it was awarded its third star!
My visits to France focused on Paris, to visit 3-star Guy Savoy, Astrance, l'Arpège, Le Pré Catelan, Robuchon, Jean-Francois Piège and a few other stars (eight of them actually) thrown in.
London was a slightly frustrating affair this year. It seems just impossible to keep up with this bustling city. You go to London, you visit lots of new restaurants and you think 'oh, that's London covered for now'. As soon as you've lifted your heels however, five or more hot new restaurants will have opened their doors. Ah well, it keeps me coming back for more.
15. Beef with horseradish buttermilk sauce
Tender beef served with an absolutely brilliant, creamy buttermilk sauce sharpened with a hint of horseradish. Also on the plate: chopped capers, onion rings, tarragon, Avruga caviar, rye crumbs and peppery watercress. A fantastic combination of flavours, comforting but challenging your palate with every mouthful. Chef Ollie Dabbous is a representative of a new generation of chefs, whose style of cooking is quite restrained, eschewing abundant flavours.
14. Asparagus cream, black olives, coconut
Three dollops of asparagus cream, topped with black olive meringue shards and served with a coconut ice cream and dots of black olive puree and lemon jelly. Loved the fabulous bitters and light sweetness from the black olives, and the intensity of the asparagus cream was sensational. Two-star chef Claude Bosi's very individual dishes strike an excellent balance between power and subtlety, and in this case also perfectly judged bitters.
13. Tomato, mozzarella, snails
La Côte Saint Jacques, Joigny, France
Brilliantly simple, simply brilliant. Tomato "galette" made from incredibly sweet and meaty tomatoes, lightly smoked mozzarella cream, balsamic and basil oil and plentiful "petit-gris" escargots. This dish stimulated all the senses. A bundle of excitement and energy. Every element was great on its own but when combined, they became absolutely magical. La Côte Saint Jacques is one of the lesser-known 3-star restaurants in France. Chef Jean Michel Lorain offers exquisite modern cooking combined with old-world "savoir faire."
12. Lobster, orange, basil
Nathan Outlaw, Rock, England
Succulent lobster pieces with some finely chopped lobster meat underneath, served with a sublime lobster stock infused with basil oil. Crisp, toasted bread with lobster paté, some orange puree and samphire was served on the side. What sets this dish apart is 2-star chef Nathan Outlaw's exceptional ability to capture the essence of an ingredient, without overworking it. Top-quality lobster like this doesn't need a twist, it's wonderful as such.
11. Carrot, orange, spinach, lemon
L'Arpége, Paris, France
Carrot and orange puree, wilted spinach, candied lemon with beetroot juice and sesame seeds. Both the puree and the spinach were great on their own, but when combined with the candied lemon, the flavours were elevated and intensified. An immaculate dish with a fantastic synergy between sweet and tart flavours. A perfect example of Alain Passard's outstanding skill of pairing vegetables with an ingredient that enhances the natural flavour of the vegetable in question.
10. Skate, split pea miso and mange tout
In De Wulf, Dranouter, Belgium
Simplicity is key at Chef Kobe Desramault's restaurant and this dish captured that philosophy perfectly. Skate, tender and moist on the inside and beautifully caramelised on the outside, served with a delicious rich and creamy sauce. Best of all was the shredded mange tout mixed with a sweet and salty pea miso. An exceptionally creative dish with awesome balance between rich and intense flavours; an umami feast for the taste buds.
9. Mezzo Berghese
Le Calandre, Rubano, Italy
Chef Massimiliano Alajmo is world-famous for being the youngest chef ever to have been awarded 3 Michelin stars. Mezzo Berghese was an utterly delicious 'raviolo' of meltingly soft ricotta and chicory , with a wonderful liquid carrot centre, covered with a thin, crisp pastry layer, with grilled Parmesan cheese and white truffle on top. The combination worked brilliantly and the bursting, sweet carrot flavours were amazing.
8. 'Ein Teller voll Meer' - a plate full of seafood
Restaurant Überfahrt, Rottach-Egern, Germany
A myriad of fish: there was turbot, salmon, shrimp and octopus, all faultlessly cooked, sprinkled with a fragrant red chilli-lime zest mixture and served with a saffron bouillon. But there was more: white shrimps, mussel with a ratatouille sauce, red pepper rouille, lime caviar, fennel and a baby squid tube with a mirepoix filling. A really clever touch was the lime caviar, that had melted into the bouillon, delivering the perfect touch of sharpness. Restaurant Überfahrt was awarded a 3rd Michelin star in November.
7. Oyster and unagi with wasabi snow
La Belle Epoque, Travemünde, Germany
Served with wasabi snow, green apple and cucumber broth, rice cream and coriander puree. Germany's youngest 3-star chef Kevin Fehling's take on Unagi nigiri sushi. Poached oyster, sublime piece of Unagi, a light and airy rice cream, marinated tapioca pearls, puffed rice and an apple and cucumber broth. A perfectly conceived dish with evocative flavours.
6. 'La Volaille', chicken two ways
Le Pré Catelan, Paris
Superb Rotisserie chicken (breast), wild mushroom sauce, green asparagus shavings with Parmesan cheese and chicken mousseline, shaped into a chicken breast served with button mushrooms and a classic sauce Nantua. Everything was at its best with this dish and the chicken mousseline 'breast' was a thing of great beauty and skill. Beautiful cooking on all levels by 3-star chef Frédéric Anton.
5. Oyster two ways
De Librije, Zwolle, the Netherlands
First oyster, mustard leaf kimchi and curry, cabbage juice, curry cream and oil. The piquancy and subtle bitters from both the kimchi and the curry were the perfect match for the briny oyster. Equally good was oyster, marinated in 18 month aged pineapple juice, with pickled kohlrabi and foie gras, a combo that left a tickling sensation on the tongue. Two ingenious dishes with masterfully balanced flavours. With dishes like these, 3-star chef Jonnie Boer puts himself firmly in the vanguard of modern European haute cuisine.
4. "Sommerreh" - Summer roe deer
Schloss Schauenstein, Fürstenau, Switzerland
A truly distinctive and intricate dish by 3-star chef Andreas Caminada. The beautifully cooked roe deer, wrapped in a thin layer of ham, was of the highest quality. To accompany the roe deer, there was pear confit, pear 'molasses', a celeriac cylinder with a celeriac puree filling, celeriac 'ravioli' and braised celeriac topped with a cranberry compôte. Best of all were the perfectly cut, caramelised mini-sandwiches with a sweet and sticky pear filling.
3. Exotic fruits
Schloss Berg, Perl-Nennig, Germany
I was seriously impressed by the impeccable and precise flavours of this complex and visually stunning dessert. On the plate were watermelon sorbet, liquid lychee bonbon, mango-coconut bonbon, pina colada ice cream, carrot and ginger meringues and iced coconut pearls. Schloss Berg is a three Michelin starred restaurant run by husband and wife team Christian and Yildiz Bau. The restaurant has held 3 stars since 2005.
2. Hay-cooked sweetbread
&samhoud places, Amsterdam
Served with a veal, kombu and kaffir lime bouillon, kumquat puree and white mushroom and parmesan polenta. The hay had given the sweetbread a beautiful touch of caramelised smokiness, both of flavour and aroma. The kumquat puree and bouillon provided a wonderful counterpoint to the richness of the sweetbread and balanced the dish beautifully. Possibly the finest sweetbread dish I have ever eaten. Israel-born chef Moshik Roth, who's known for his cutting-edge cuisine, has held two Michelin stars since 2008, first at 't Brouwerskolkje and since 2012 at &samhoud places.
1. Pig in Blanket
The Fat Duck, Bray, England
Rack of pork, wrapped in a lardo di colonnata 'blanket', smoked coconut emulsion, Brussels sprout leaves, grilled cauliflower, artichokes, white truffle and bacon dashi with a quail's egg yolk. An absolutely dazzling dish, served as part of the special Christmas menu at Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck . The pork and coconut was a killer flavour combination. The milky, sweet coconut enhanced the sweetness of the pork and with the smoking the coconut had obtained a wonderful meatiness. Combining pork and coconut is not uncommon in Asian dishes, curries in particular, but never have I seen it done so elegantly and with such finesse. The Fat Duck is clearly still ahead of the curve and gave me my best dish of 2013.
Spelling and other Britishisms have been left as Auerbach wrote them; deal with it.
· ElizabethOnFood [Official Site]
· The 15 Best Dishes of 2013 According to John Sconzo, AKA Docsconz [-E-]
· All Year in Eater 2013 Coverage [-E-]