7*7 Favorites of 2009: Dining experiences to remember
January 23rd, 2010

Grrrrmpf. Finally the list I have been looking forward to the most. And despite the fact that there is little, if any, more appealing to me than celebrating my recollection of great meals during the last 12 months, making the final choice has been much harder than anticipated. Let alone my growling stomach. We’ve had our fair share of travel last year, discovered lovely new places, found hospitality that made us feel very welcome and genuinely embraced, enjoyed lively company and – obviously – ate our heart out.

All these wonderful experiences will always have a place in my heart – in no particular order:

Aiano B & B, Capri/Italy
I can hardly imagine a more scenic place for having breakfast outside and surely, the weather gods were on a roll. Sunshine, sunshine and more sunshine, just a couple of days before Aiano B & B officially closed down for the season. We were the only guests and the owners Tony and Josie made sure, our daily breakfasts became memorable ones. A patio with the most amazing view over the Gulf of Naples and an endless supply of fresh, peeled figs straight from their garden, served with just the right squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Of course there was more, but if you’d given us just the view and the figs, we would have been happy. Very happy.

Grant Achatz at Ikarus, Salzburg/Austria
If you’re a long time reader, perhaps you’ll remember our first trip to the Ikarus. Located in Salzburg, the restaurant featuring monthly changing guest chefs is as famous as ever. Being a creature of habit, as soon as their guest chef list for the upcoming year is published, I mark down the interesting dates, which in 2009 were October (René Redzepi) and November (Grant Achatz). October had already been packed with travel and besides, I’ve always been curious for the Alinea cuisine, certainly ever since these posts from Fatemeh. So Grant Achatz it was. And though I’m sure, having the same menu at Alinea in Chicago would have even added to the whole experience, the Ikarus did a fantastic job in making our jaws drop deeper and deeper by every course,  from the 1st all the way through to the 14th. This cuisine is certainly not for everybody, but for those who are open-minded, it pushes the boundaries of your culinary imaginative power as well as your taste buds. Oh my god.

Sweet|Salty|Spicy, Singapore
Food bloggers are by nature very generous people. Traveling to a foreign city and need tips? I’d bet anything that if you shot your fellow food blogger friend an email indicating you will come to visit his/her city, 99% will respond with an extensive list of recommendations. More often than not they might in fact be up to meeting you in person. And when you are especially lucky, you get invited to a fantastic multi-course Thai dinner at your food blogger friends’ friend’s (no, that’s not a typo) restaurant, get to meet more of their friends, all gastro-inclined people. Aun and Su Lyn (the creative minds behind Chubby Hubby, and besides, two of the most wonderful people) as well as their friends spoiled us without comparison and the kitchen of Sweet|Salty|Spicy made us polish one plate after another. Not sure if we can ever reciprocate.

Julia & Max, Munich
Sometimes – through business and work – you meet people you instantly connect with. You care for the same things (food is the best starting point ever) and continue inviting each other over for dinner. You may not see each other very often, but every time you do, food is prepared with great passion and love, and you could talk about the finer points of braising veal cheeks, flea market finds for the kitchen or having your own little agriculture forever.

Meierei Gaaden, Gaaden/Austria
Visiting our sailing friends Georg and Eri in Vienna is not an easy task. As usual we were equipped with a never-ending “to eat and must try”-list, but were pretty limited in time. On top, the weather turned out to be really nasty. Rain, like, constantly, always. We barely made our ways around the puddles and took comfort in the food stops along the way. Then Sunday arrived. Bluest skies, sunshine and warmer temperatures led us straight to Meierei Gaaden, where we had a rustic breakfast of the finest. The scenery was so calm and relaxing, that we decided to take a walk around the small village and through the surrounding fields… just long enough to work up an appetite again and go straight back there for lunch. And…. more coffee with homemade strudels and cakes. One of those perfect days, that you cannot plan, they just happen.

Don Alfonso 1890, Sant’Agata sui due Golfi/Italy
All has been written. Want to go back. Very badly.

Munich, Rome/Italy & many more places
We feel blessed and very lucky to have some wonderful friends who care about good food and cooking just as much as we do. Meeting for whatever reason always involves food, may it be a semi-business meeting on a sunny patio with summer salads (Sabine!…), an autumnal birthday feast with singing interlude (Sebastian!…), summer celebration in an open photographic atelier (Coco!…), day-long cooking in a Romain palazzo (Hande & Theo!…), spontaneous Satuday evening get-together almost next door (Anja & Carlos!…) or the best Christmas party (Dagi & Craig!) – the list could go on and on. HOMECOOKING RULES!

Closing down on the 7×7 list spree, which of your own dining experiences in 2009 would you not wanted to have missed?

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