Best Bites of 2015

Well, hello there. Yes, yes, happy new year. How much longer must we go on saying this? But really, when is it socially acceptable to stop wishing people a happy year, because I don’t want to get half way into February optimistically encouraging peoples’ vibes. Basically, I hope your year is happy, healthy and successful, but I’m probably not going to say it again.

Now that it’s a new year, it’s fun to look back on memories close to the heart. Yes, I’m talking about those fond moments of foodporn. All those resolutions you made to eat healthier, get to the gym and steer clear of the sugar? I wish you luck, my friend, because by the end of this post, you’ll need something substantial to come down off the filthy high of discreet foodporn browsing. Last year was indeed a gluttonous one, so join me in looking back on some of my best bites of 2015.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 It started on a sweet note, indulging in the expert confectionary of Yauatcha‘s dessert counter. An assortment of my favourite macarons, and some of the most beautifully intricate and flavourful pastries and cakes. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015East London gem Lyle’s, serving up elegant British cuisine, hosted Parisienne chef James Henry, with a menu of cured meats, perfectly prepared fish and noteworthy veg. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Bone Daddies previous pop-up joint that now permanently resides in Soho, Shackfuyu, had heads turning and instagrams posting. Prawn toast masquerading as okonomiyaki topped with bonito flakes was particularly great, but we all know this mention is about the best dressed on the menu. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 The kinako-style french toast with a stacked side of green tea soft serve stole the limelight of social media channels in a paparazzi-like frenzy. Lime green swirls atop pretty blue china appearing in every frame of each drawn out scroll. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 The Clove Club, claimed to serve often overlooked ingredients with British flair, stirred the pot with their buttermilk fried chicken topped with pine salt. This arrives nestled amongst pine needles, cushioning the crispy morsels of tender meat. A moreish treat, indeed. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Inspired by the changing seasons, Claridge’s resident Fera serves a sensational tasting menu of expertly executed dishes in stunning receptacles. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Although my passion for food involves tasting, judging and critiquing dishes to myself and amongst my dining partners, I have often been told I’m much more judgemental when it comes to dessert. Now, I don’t know that this is due to my significant sweet tooth, that I feel the need to seriously scrutinise the sugary details, but it’s rare that I’m pleasantly surprised by pudding. However, I must admit, Fera’s aerated yoghurt and rhubarb dessert is a sensational treat – both complex and flavourful, leaving a memorable impression.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Worldwide, Japanese hotspot Zuma creates some of the most visually appealing plates of expertly prepared meats, fish and vegetables. This particular masterpiece had delicately combined pieces of lobster, wagyu, crab, truffles, broccolini and peppers.  Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Three Michelin-starred Epicure, the masterpiece of Chef Eric Frechon, served another most memorable dish of the year. Caviar from Sologne topped ratte potato mousseline flavoured with smoked haddock and served with a buckwheat crisp stuffed with sourcream and chives.Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 A luscious bite indeed. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015The spotlight shone, however, on their most popular dish: foie gras filled macaroni with black truffle. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Three of the most perfect macaroni served with a heavenly filling. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Last year it was decided that fried chicken topped Belgian waffles with truffle salt and maple syrup should be a mandatory brunch item (by me). Luckily, London’s Hot Box feels the same way. This perfect combination of sweet and savoury is what brunch is all about.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Yashin Sushi, my favourite sushi spot in London, touts their delicious sushi as best consumed “without soy sauce”. However they serve it, I’ll eat it, because this fish is beyond phenomenal. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Taiwanese street food place, Bao London, served up a threesome you want to be involved with. Lamb shoulder with jalapeño, confit pork with sticky sweet sauce and fried chicken with sichuan mayo and golden kimchi were unbelievable bites worthy of the overindulgence. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Although their Taiwanese take on blood pudding wasn’t the tastiest bite of 2015, it was certainly foodporn popular. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 This beauty was one of my favourite bites of 2015. Rabbit Restaurant’s pickled mackerel with potato and anchovy is a flavour and texture combination I’ve since craved on numerous occasions. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Ottolenghi’s Nopi creates a myriad of phenomenal flavour combinations topped with stunning spices, but the simplicity of this burrata and peach with coriander seeds and plum wine was a definite winner. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015

Another dessert worthy of a shoutout, Polpetto‘s chocolate flan with freshly made crème fraîche. Simple, clean flavours with a powerful punch of chocolate is enough to make you swoon.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015

Camden market resident, The Frenchie, turns heads with its duck confit sandwich, topped with crispy duck-skin scratchings, rocket, mustard, red-onion chutney, goat’s cheese and truffle honey, all piled atop a brioche bun. A proper mouthful. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Whilst galavanting ’round Europe this summer, a particularly memorable meal was that of a picnic in Budapest. The air was thick, sun was hot and our feet growing heavy with each step. We soon stumbled upon Nagyvásárcsarnok, or the Great Market Hall, a restored neogothic hall where food traders now sell products and ingredients from their stalls. We picked and pondered over each stand, leaving with our arms loaded with goodies, before finding a shaded bench near the Danube. Sweet knotted bread, spicy meats, milky Hungarian goat’s cheese and sour cherries warmed by the sun made for the most enjoyable snack. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015King of the world of pastry (sounds like a fairytale land I’d like to reside in) Paris has long since been crowned for its patisserie production. Established in 1903, Angelina’s signature pastry, the mont-blanc has been creating queues as far as the eye can see, and stomach can bear to stand. But it’s all worth the wait for a bite of this sumptuous combination of meringue, whipped cream, chestnut cream vermicelli. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Another moment of picnic perfection involved lazily lounging in the Jardin du Luxembourg nibbling on meats, pâté, goats cheese, Brie, cherries, peaches, figs, fresh baguette and the pièce de résistance, an excessive amount of Pierre Hermé macarons. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Amsterdam is internationally known for its Indonesian fare, and I have to say that Kantjil & de Tiger is the best I’ve ever had. Each dish more flavourful than the last, the tender meats and saucy vegetables combined for an enjoyable feast.  Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Upon recommendation, another delightful find amongst the picturesque canals of Amsterdam, lies the little gelateria IJscuypje. With hazelnut, speculoos and milk chocolate gelato piled high, I uttered a statement I never thought would escape my lips so far from the Italian motherland. This is the best gelato everBest Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015One of my favourite sky-high spots is the much loved Duck & Waffle. With sugar spiced ox cheek stuffed doughnuts served in apricot jam, what’s not to love?  Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 This grilled asparagus with smoked buttermilk curd, dandelion and pickled walnut was a special I won’t soon forget. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Another one of my all-time favourite brunch dishes, silky Turkish eggs served with yogurt and chilli oil, can be found tucked away in Covent Garden at KopapaBest Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Only in America’s capital, Washington DC, can something this indulgent be found. Good Stuff Eatery’s toasted marshmallow and red velvet milkshakes are worth slowly sipping into a caloric coma.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Bring on the brain freeze! Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015Switch coasts to California for a cult-like love of burger fanship. In-N-Out may not be the best burger on earth, (calm down, burger snobs) but the freshness of the ingredients and addition of salt-scented ocean air beats your fine dining fat feast any day. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 I finally made it to Los Angeles’ star-studded Gjelina last year, and man was it worth the wait. The quality of ingredients are incredible, with a pretty awesome kale salad representing the Californian flair. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 The wood roasted cauliflower with garlic, vinegar and chilli really makes you want to eat your veg.  Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015And the eggplant caponata with burrata on toast, as well as the gruyere and caramelised onion pizza were dough-topped delights worthy of the after effect.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015At Manhattan Beach Post, there’s a mandatory order of bacon cheddar buttermilk biscuits with maple butter. Promise me, should you ever visit MBP, you will not leave the premises without trying these biscuity bad boys? Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015 Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015The pomegranate couscous with lavender feta, Marcona almonds, grapefruit and mint is really special, as well. Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015With my casual burrito obsession flexed to the fullest whilst residing on the West Coast, I popped into Lucha Libre Taco Shop to see what all the fuss was about. The Surf & Turf burrito comes with steak, shrimp, rice, potatoes and secret chipotle sauce. A tip of the hat to you, you absolute burrito babes.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015We then kicked it old school at El Indio, the family owned Mexican restaurant that’s been serving San Diego for 75 years. This California burrito is quite possibly one of the best I’ve ever had.
Best Bites | Alessandra Brian 2015

Why have one burrito, when you can have three? Yes, it’s a bit absurd to have three burritos on my list of highlighted dishes. But if you think about it, is it really? The final tortilla encased bliss can be found tucked away in a seaside town in Baja California, Mexico. At this little side of the road taco shop called Magañas, you can find the quesotaco, a burrito filled with succulent rotisserie chicken, beans, onion, cilantro, and a salsa so fiery, you’ll sniffle your way through every bite.

That’s it people. Your diet is over, goals squashed, and resolutions railroaded. Rather than wish you a happy new year, I wish you a happy food year. Happy eating and good luck with those resolutions! Let me know any must-try dishes for 2016 and where you’re most looking forward to eating in the comments below, or tweet me @Alessandra_LDN 

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Paris

One of my best Christmas gifts this year was a quick trip to Paris.
The trip coordinated with my best friend’s family EuroTrip so that we would get to spend a couple days with them in when they reached their last leg in Paris.

We stayed in the gorgeous, modern boutique Hotel L’Adresse in the 8th Arrondissement. It has black and white interior with a signature scent and contemporary fixtures. The hotel is tiny but incredibly romantic and you can book here.

My favourite thing to do in Paris is to wander the streets aimlessly with nowhere to be. Actually, that isn’t true. My favourite thing to do in Paris is to eat. Second to that, there’s nothing like discovering little shops with the latest fashion trends, hidden markets with local specialties, and flower shops bursting with colourful, fresh bouquets.

We walked the streets of Paris, popping into art galleries and stores before beginning heading to Poilâne, Paris’ legendary bakery. The bread is available in their two shops in London and at select specialist stores, but it isn’t the same. Besides, I was looking to snap a picture of the famous, fully functional bread chandelier.

We could smell the shop before we could see it. The windows were lined with fresh loaves of sourdough marked with Poilâne’s signature P. As Christmas had just passed, other loaves were decorated with winter scenes made from bread. After nibbling on fresh bread samples, I selected a miniature loaf of sourdough to take with me for later. The bread is phenomenal and the shop has an incredible history which you can read here. 

More wandering led us to my next food item on the list, Pierre Hermé Macarons. A long line snaked out of the shop as it always does. The macarons are also available in London, but again, it’s not the same. As we waited in the shops, I drooled over the pastries and cakes. One in particular caught my eye, La Cerise Sur Le Gâteau, or The Cherry on the Cake. This stunning cake is made of Dacquoise Biscuit with Hazelnuts, Wafters of Milk Chocolate, Milk Chocolate Ganache, and Milk Chocolate Chantilly. I wan’t this cake. Although, I don’t know if I could destroy it’s perfect exterior. On second thought, i’m sure i’d forgive myself. We selected a six macarons to take with us and set out to explore more.

We continued walking into the night, passing the sights and snapping away. It was quite cold and I was beginning to get hunger pangs, so we stopped at a hidden steak restaurant near the Eiffel Tower. We shared a beautifully cooked Thick Rump Steak with Béarnaise, Pomme Frittes, and a luscious Mushroom Risotto with Truffle.

We chatted into the night as the restaurant packed with locals. Happy and full, we took a cab ride home. Did you know, that if an accident occurs on the Arc de Triomphe roundabout, your insurance doesn’t cover it?

Once we had snuggled up in the room, we shared our Pierre Hermé macarons with tea and flicked through the day’s pictures. We planned our next day around food, as I so often do, and went to bed.

The next morning began with a nippy walk to Marche d’Aligre, one of the most famous Parisian food markets. It consists of an indoor market, Beauvau-Saint-Antoine, and an outdoor market in the place d’Aligre. Food markets are typical part of the Parisian way of life, and happen to be one of my favourite things, ever.

We drifted around the market, watching locals exchange with stall holders and mothers stock up on supplies. As we were meeting Lauren (best friend) and Marty (other mother) at the train station, we bought a huge hunk of Brie and a fresh baguette to take with us. As we were leaving the market, a man was selling an entire box of figs for €5 as he was packing up. This was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

We headed to Gare De L’est Train Station, happy as could be with my newly purchased market snack. As we were early, we found a table to eat whilst we waited for their train to arrive. Bite after bite of the fresh, fluffy baguette smothered in creamy Brie with ripe fig spread over the top. I was in heaven.

We greeted them at the platform, and took a cab back to their hotel. After they settled into the Concorde Lafayette, we went back out on the town. We walked around the Louvre and through Jardin des Tuileries to one of my favourite stores, Colette. Colette is a concept shop with an eclectic, trendy mix of luxury goods and fashionable garments. I definitely recommend a visit, even if you’re there only for, as the french say, léche vitrines – which literally translates to window licking.

After more window licking, we stumbled upon the most amazing chocolate shop with a Willy Wonka-esque chocolate wall fountain, Jean Paul Hévin. The shop had bowls of chocolate, macaron towers, and a killer pump made solely from chocolate. We left with with a box of the most incredible macarons to have after dinner. Sadly, they got a little mushed on the journey.

 We stopped for dinner and chatted about their EuroTrip so far. Look how decadent my French Onion Soup was! It was much needed after the long, cold day and I ate every bite. Considering the French are particularly opposed to ketchup, I found their rather American serving bottles to be quite amusing. For dessert, a decadent Crepe with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, Chocolate Sauce, and a Banana.

We walked down the Champs Elysees and around the Eiffel Tower. As it began to rain, we went back to the Concorde Lafayette and marvelled over the views from their Panoramic Bar. We lounged, listening to the Parisian singer serenade the guests before heading downstairs for some tea. We sampled the macarons and chatted late until the night before saying goodbye and heading back to our hotel.

Sad to be leaving on our early Eurostar trip back to London, only one thing could cheer me up.

Au Revoir Paris xx