Per Global Heartbeat Travel tradition, I have assembled my favorite drinking and dining experiences from the past year. Looking back on 2018, I realized it was a great year for great food. (I think it helped not being pregnant – ha!)
Like always, I remind you that this annual exercise is not to boast or gloat; its purpose is to give you a few go-to-dining-spots around the world. After all, I want YOU to have something to write home about the next time you find yourself in one of these locations!
FINISHING STRONG IN SWITZERLAND
Our final six months in the land of cheese and chocolate did not disappoint our taste buds. Here are a couple of restaurants – and stellar views – that I’m missing already (that photo above included!).
Chäsalp in Zurich
I love fondue. I love fondue in Switzerland even more. And I can say with full confidence that we found the BEST fondue restaurant in the entire Alpine nation. The Chäsalp is a family-run establishment in the rural suburbs of Zurich. It was renovated in 2017 and the charm is off the charts. (The bunnies in the window really take the country chic vibe to a whole new level.)
The entire reason you should go to the Chäsalp is for their “Fondue Exravaganza.” It’s all-you-can-eat fondue, and you can order any VERSION you want. Cheese with peppers, cheese with truffles, and my personal favorite… cheese with champagne! Strap yourself in for a great night and a memorable meal.
TIP: The Chäsalp is not in the city center of Zurich, so know your bus times for the Tobelhof stop if arriving and departing by public transportation. Also, reservations are highly recommended (perhaps even required?)!
Restaurant Strela-Alp in Davos
Just a short walk past the Shatzalpbahn station, the Strela-Alp restaurant affords walkers, skiers, and travelers mountain high views and rich Swiss fare. While Strela-Alp is a typical Swiss mountainside restaurant, our family lunch was memorable for the regional dishes of Graubünden that we tried for the first time, such as Capuns (Swiss chard rolls stuffed with sausage in a rich cream sauce) and the Hausgemachte Bündner Käsepizokel mit Zwiebeln (buckwheat pasta in a creamy cheese sauce). So much ooey-gooey cheesy goodness! (My mom went with the Swiss classic, Rösti.)
Plus, there is something so magical about sitting outside on a winter day, overlooking snow-covered mountains and valleys. What’s not to like?
TIP: If you’re feeling in good health, skip the Shatzalpbahn in favor for the walking trail up the mountain – either in one direction or both! It may help you justify all of the melted cheese…
Sagibeiz in Murg on the Walensee
One of the most delightful meals of my year happened on Mother’s Day, which I celebrated with Justin, our #littleAlpenRose, and my parents with a delectable lunch at this trendy restaurant on the shores of the Walensee (one of my favorite lakes in Switzerland).
From the seasonal asparagus in my salad and accompanying my steak, to the innovative version of garlic soup, the food matched the restaurant vibe: new, fresh, eye-catching, and enjoyable.
TIP: Make reservations for a special weekend lunch and commute over from Zurich for the day, which is only an hour-ish away by train or car! Then take a post-lunch stroll along the lake.
Drinks at the Oeschinensee above Kandersteg, Canton Bern
If you’ve followed my time in Switzerland, you’ll know that I love the Oeschinensee. It’s one of my favorite places in the Swiss Alps! As such, it was en route during our final hike in the country. What better way to celebrate three incredible years than with these brews and this view!
TIP: If you are visiting the lake for the day, don’t forget that the hiking trail back down to Kandersteg is closed during winter (because it becomes part of the ski run) and you’ll have to get your post-meal exercise on the uphill walk back to the gondola station. Read more about this magical mountain wonderland in my post 7 Reasons to Add the Oeschinensee to Your Swiss Travel Itinerary.
Restaurant Alpenrose in Zurich
The night before we said goodbye to Switzerland (for now), we supped with friends at the Restaurant Alpenrose. It seemed fitting for our final meal, as I gave my daughter the hashtag #littleAlpenRose (for the record, her name is Heidi Rose). For those traveling to Zurich who want an elegant – but not over the top – Swiss meal, the Alpenrose is a great choice.
TIP: Whenever you are dining in Switzerland and have the opportunity to do so, order nüsslisalat! Translated as “lamb’s lettuce” in English, this leafy green is a Swiss favorite and often it is topped with bacon bits and/or egg. Have it with the Französisch salad dressing and you will bite into one of my favorite Swiss dishes of all time. No joke!
SOAKING UP PORTUGAL
In April, the Swiss Family Domeck toured Lisbon and the Algarve Coast with dear friends from Orlando. We basically went from one amazing meal to the next. (It was still a bit too chilly for swimming!) If you’ve never been to Portugal, all I have to say is EAT ALL THE GOOD FOOD! There’s so much of it! Oh, and don’t forget the wine :)
Pastéis de Belém in Belém, Lisbon
It’s kind of a right of passage if you ever visit Lisbon: you have to try the Pastéis de Belem. This bakery is world-famous and the recipe for their Portuguese custard tarts (the pastéis de nata) is top secret, as they claim it to originate from the monks at the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos across the street (also a must-see).
TIP: You can find pastéis de nata all over Portugal… so don’t be ashamed to sample from various eateries. There is much debate about which bakery makes the best custard tart. In fact, many claim the best of Lisbon are made at Manteigaria in Lisbon’s Chiado district! Just FYI…
Restaurante Tasca do Celso in Vila Nova de Milfontes
Probably the meal that I am most proud of finding was in the tiny village in Portugal’s Alentejo region. We were driving from Lisbon to Lagos, and we wanted to take the long road through the National Park. I used Google Maps to search the coastline for promising eateries, and you guys, we landed a table at the fantastic Tasca do Celso for perhaps THE MOST AMAZING MEAL of 2018.
With an open kitchen and family-friendly feel, this restaurant seemed casual enough. But man, the food was anything but ordinary. For four adults and one baby, we ordered enough food to feed a small army. And we loved eating it all. From succulent shrimp to wild rabbit, baked mushrooms, perfectly seared fish, and generous pours of regional wine, we were delighted by every facet of this meal.
TIP: Without a doubt, Tasca do Celso was definitely worth the detour, and I would go back to Vila Nova de Milfontes solely for this restaurant again in a heartbeat! However, to enjoy the slow-paced Portuguese lifestyle even more, I’d consider staying in the area for a night. There’s a great little beach not far from the restaurant and the west coast is just sublime. :)
Tasca do Kiko in Lagos
In Lagos, we set our sights on the backside of the harbor docks for a -literally – hidden gem of a restaurant. Although the service was not quite commendable, the succulent treasures from the sea made up for that consequential element of dining out. From salty gooseneck barnacles to fried prawns, the flavors of each dish were a treat for our tastebuds.
TIP: This is definitely a tapas-style meal. So, don’t hesitate to get several dishes for each person! Also, don’t doubt your directions as you make your way to its obscure location.
BOIA in Salema
We stayed in the tiny fishing hamlet of Salema, and our concierge desk from Nau Hotels booked us a table for Easter lunch. I can really only recommend this restaurant for one thing: the grilled octopus. It was absolutely divine and was probably swimming off the coast just the day before. The beachside views and great conversation made this a memorable meal for me, even if the service and some of the food was meh. Gotta be honest here!
TIP: Dine at Boia is you love octopus and grilled prawn, both of which were quite excellent. Otherwise, check out the acclaimed Agua na Boca across the street, which is where we would have gone if it were open. I have a feeling you’d have a meal worth a “Best Eats” list!
SPRINGING INTO POLAND
In May, we spent a holiday weekend exploring the rich history of KRAKÓW and getting a small taste of Polish culture. I loved sampling perogies on our “Food & Vodka Tour” with Free Walkative! Tours and exploring the market with a guide was pretty awesome, too. Speaking of awesome…
Ur’TACOS at the Food Truck Park
With a late night arrival, we found a quick and tasty bite at the Food Truck Park in the Kazimirez neighborhood – which has a TON of great bars and restaurants, by the way. The Ur’Tacos truck grabbed our attention with their “French tacos” – a wrapped up sandwich that would make any late night eater jealous. It’s as if a doner kebab and a grilled panini wrap had a baby, they’d make a French taco – the perfect food truck meal!
TIP: Kraków has several great spots for street food, such as Plac Izaaka, Judah Square and Bezogródek Food Truck Park outside the city center. If you’re here and the weather is right, grab a snack and enjoy the atmosphere.
Stara Pączkarnia in Kraków
Thanks to this marvelous modern bakery franchise, I have a new love for paczki, the Polish doughnut! We passed by this window numerous times before I gave in to the temptation, and it was one of the best decisions of our trip! The rose donut was quite possibly the best donut I’ve ever had in my life.
TIP: You’ll see these doughy beauties all around town. Although I didn’t taste test and can’t know for certain, I scrutinized the paczki in the windows of other bakeries and they didn’t quite seem as delicately delicious as my rose ‘nut from Stara Pączkarnia. So… I would only go back to this gorgeous window some day and maybe that’s where you should start, too!
Trezo in Kazimierz District
Our gracious Airbnb host offered to babysit Heidi Rose one night so that Justin and I could enjoy a real dinner date. We were happy to score a table for two at Trezo, a hip little restaurant with soft candlelight, fresh flowers, exposed brick walls, and a string duet serenade. The Polish beef tartar with a quail egg was the highlight of our meal, but everything (from roasted lamb to fresh pasta) was fabulous.
TIP: For the best drinking and dining in Krakow, make sure to stay in (or very near) the Kazimierz district so that you can have easy walks to great restaurants and bars. It’s very safe and a really cool area with so much to offer travelers!
ROAD TRIPPING AROUND THE BRITISH ISLES
Before we moved off the European Continent, we spent three weeks traversing Great Britain and Ireland in June. Even though our 9-month-old daughter limited our dining options at times (did you know that – with some exceptions – babies aren’t allowed in bars in Scotland?!?!), we still made some scrumptious memories in a few fantastic places.
Kricket Soho in London
On our first night in London, we snagged seats at the bar counter of Kricket, one of London’s hippest Indian-inspired restaurants. Just a block from Piccadilley Circus, this crafty kitchen dishes out tapas-sized plates bursting with flavor and ingredients I’ve never even heard of: Samphire pakoras, date & tamarind chutney, chili garlic mayonnaise; Keralan fried chicken, curry leaf mayonnaise and pickled mooli; Kashmiri lamb ribs, wild garlic raita, pomegranate vinegar & jaggery. Every morsel was a delectable bite of deliciousness.
TIP: Get here early if you don’t have a reservation. Also, don’t bring your baby stroller. Not much parking space.
Unique Drinks in London
Justin and I had two stand-out drinking experiences in London, thanks to the fact that we had a family friend babysit our girl for a day and a night. First, after we biked through Hyde Park and Notting Hill, we quaffed our thirst with a Pimm’s Cup inside the eclectic Acklam Village Market just off Portobello Road. It simply screamed “this is a summer of international delights!”
Second, we started a date night with cocktails in the Aqua Shard Atrium Bar, the tallest skyscraper in the city and in Western Europe! I felt a little guilty drink Audrey Hepburn’s face, but she was quite delicious. Additionally, the views over London were exceptional.
TIP: When paying high prices for cocktails, expect the quality to match. If you find a drink sorely lacking, don’t be afraid to exercise good judgment and polite manners to ask for a re-make or another drink entirely. Unfortunately, Justin had to do exactly this at Aqua Shard. Although it was a bit embarrassing (because we didn’t want to seem snobby and we’d never done it before), it was totally the right call. Thankfully, the staff was gracious and understanding; Justin was much happier the second time around and able to fully enjoy the moment as a result!
Traveling First Class on Virgin Trains in the UK
“Plug in, chill out, drink up.” is the motto of Virgin’s First Class train travel. Although they were not dishing out caviar and champagne, I still felt like a queen on our 4.5-hour train ride from London to Edinburgh every time the drink or food carts passed by, which was often!
Would I like a beer? Yes, please. And a water.
What would I like to order for breakfast? For lunch?
I’ll take one of each item, thank you.
TIP: Virgin Trains has a great First Class Lounge in Kings Cross Station. There you’ll find places to relax, outlets to charge your devices, and free snacks and beverages. Give yourself time to unwind here before cruising on to your next destination!
Coed Mawr Hall Bed & Breakfast in Rowen, Conwy, Wales
Caragh River Lodge in Bridia Valley, Kerry, Ireland
To taste the charm of local life, staying in a bed & breakfast is almost a must when visiting the UK or Ireland. Our two favorite stays and their made-to-order breakfasts were in northern Wales and inside Ireland’s “Ring of Kerry.” Nothing like freshly cooked sausage, eggs, sautéed tomatoes, and a kind-hearted host to leave a lasting impression.
TIP: Oftentimes, B&B hosts ask for your breakfast order the night beforehand in order to have it prepared at an agreed-upon time. Respect your hosts with these requests, please! They work hard and benefit from your cooperation.
The Bank on College Green in Dublin, Ireland
This former bank just down the street from Trinity College is a real stunner. With magnificently coffered ceilings, resplendent pink granite colonnades, and bronze statues posted sentinel, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time as soon as you walk through the doors of The Bank on College Green. We had a casual but fabulous lunch during our day exploring Dublin, and I really recommend it to other travelers!
TIP: The Bank dresses to the nines for Christmas. If you’re in Dublin during the holiday season, make sure to pop in for a drink at least!
FLYING HIGH IN BRAZIL
To celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary in August, Justin and I went to RIO DE JANEIRO for a week of baby-free fun. Rio has held a special place in our hearts for much of our marriage, and we loved meeting this place – and its sumptuous cuisine – in person!
Aprazível Restaurante in Rio de Janeiro
One of the most notable restaurants in this fantastic city, Aprazível perches on the top of the Santa Teresa neighborhood overlooking the city and serves a mix of Brazilian and Amazonia fare. Justin and I went all out for this dinner date – ordering drinks, apps, entrees and desserts – and never once were we disappointed. In fact, my passion fruit caipirinha was a visual note that Aprazível was going to deliver a star-studded dinner.
My jaw dropped open when our server cut open a steaming palm branch at our table and sliced us pieces of fresh heart of palm. Y’all… the heart of palm made me want to move to Brazil; it was THAT good! No, I’m not kidding.
TIP: The only downside to a dinner here is missing the view. Sure we got romantic lighting and a sprinkle of stars, but if you want another great view of Rio, go for a long and luxurious lunch Also, take an Uber for easy budget-friendly transportation.
Cervantes Restaurant and Bar in Rio de Janeiro
Imagine the best sandwich you’ve ever had and I’ll wager that the Cervantes sandwich would rival it.
Steak. Foie gras. Grilled pineapple. BOOM!
Have you ever heard of such a combo? Probably not, but trust me when I say it is DELIGHTFULLY DELICIOUS!
TIP: I get the feeling that Restaurant Cervantes gets very busy. We went for a late lunch and didn’t have to fight for a table, my recommended strategy!
NEW THINGS IN OLD STOMPING GROUNDS: #YEAHTHATGREENVILLE
After moving back to Florida, Justin and I carved out a special fall weekend to revisit the city where we met and went to college: Greenville, South Carolina. It was a heart-warming and stomach-satisfying reunion.
The Lazy Goat in Greenville, South Carolina
You know a restaurant is great when it’s just as good years later as you remember it to be. The Lazy Goat is one of those restaurants for me, as it was a special treat during my college years (more than a decade ago!). As Justin took a bite from our appetizer, he couldn’t resist commenting on our first course…
“These Brussels sprouts,” he mumbled between chewing, “mmm…mmm… they’ll rock your face off!” Guys, that’s a good thing.
TIP: With favorable weather and good timing, you can catch a concert at Larkins across the river by sitting outside!
Jianna in Greenville, South Carolina
This “Modern Italian Restaurant and Oyster Bar” brings a lot to the table in a town that is chock full of good restaurants. Fresh burrata. Fresh pasta. Great drinks. This is the hip place in town. I really enjoyed my dinner here, but I was too busy catching up with my dear friends that I failed to snap a photo that night. (Because people are more important than screens!) So, these are some of the lovely faces who learned with me that night that Jianna is “the jam” – as we used to say.
TIP: Jianna is literally across the street from another Greenville classic – Spill the Beans. Coincidence? I think not.
Tandem Crêperie and Coffeehouse in Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina
For the best coffee, a killer breakfast and a sweet snack in the Upstate, Tandem is sure to impress. Posted in “downtown TR” at the end of the Swamp Rabbit Trail, you are sure to leave this awesome establishment with a cheery disposition and a happy tummy.
TIP: If overwhelmed by the yummy options, as the staff member at the register counter what to order and trust their suggestion!
A BIRTHDAY WEEKEND IN NEW YORK CITY
When Justin’s job took him to New Jersey the same week his brother turned 30, we just had to capitalize on an opportunity to celebrate with an adults-only trip to The Big Apple. A special shout out to my sister-in-law MK for introducing us to Levain Bakery, where I may have had the best oatmeal chocolate chip cookie of all time!
Black Seed Bagels, Manhattan, New York
From now on, whenever I go to New York, I will only eat Black Seed Bagels for breakfast. With several locations around NYC, this little shop is serving up some of the best bagels I’ve ever had. We ate here two mornings in a row, and often we each had more than one bagel… it was THAT good!
TIP: I can’t recommend enough the idea of sharing more than 1 bagel per person… go on. I dare you.
Beauty & Essex in Lower East Side
It’s not everyday that you have to walk through a fake Pawn Shop to enter a swanky bar. But that’s why we love New York City. Located in the Lower East Side, Beauty & Essex is a bar and restaurant with a creative cocktails and an inventive menu. I loved sipping on my “Old Dirty Bramble” cocktail (aka O.D.B.) so much so that I convinced our crew to end up there another night.
TIP: If you don’t have reservations, don’t worry. Just go early (read: before 7pm) and you can probably get a seat in the bar lounge.
Katz’s Delicatessen in Lower East Side
With a line that often stretches out the door and white-paper-hat-wearing dudes slicing up pastrami 24/7, Katz’s Deli is a New York icon. Their slow-cooked meat and pickles are world-famous, but their menu stretches even beyond that – just like the line to get in. Signed photographs of the rich and the famous cover the wall and tables are jammed together, forcing strangers to chow down with strangers. It’s a marvelous mess of a machine!
TIP: Over ordering is easy. We split a pastrami rueben sandwich, and we were full. Also, watch the famous deli scene from When Harry Met Sally before you go! (Warning: It’s PG-13…)
Estela in Lower East Side
When entering a new decade of life, it’s best to dine well. Estela is a lovely place to do just that. For a celebratory birthday dinner, we supped on lamb ribs with charmoula and honey; endive, walnuts, anchovy, and ubriaco rosso; burrata, salsa verde, and charred bread; fried quail with peppers; and other tasty things with unfamiliar ingredients. Tapas-style ordering is really the way to go.
TIP: This tiny slice of a restaurant can get warm inside. So, even in winter, make sure to wear layers that allow you to cool off with ease!
RE-MAKING OUR HOME IN ORLANDO
We, the Recently Relocated Swiss Family Domeck, have accepted our Floridian-status once again. Orlando continues to evolve and we can’t wait to try the many new eateries that have opened up since we moved away. I’ll start with adding two newcomers to My Favorite Orlando Restaurants!
Royal Tea at Mills 50
With just one sip of cheese mousse rose pu’er tea, I’ve found my new guilty pleasure in town. The creamy cheese mousse pairs perfectly with fresh brew over ice, and this combination of sweet and savory really sets the bar high for speciality drinks. Royal Tea has other tea and coffee drinks, all made with the freshest ingredients, but it’s that cheese mousse I’ve been drooling over in my day dreams. In working on this article, I had to take a break and go get one!
TIP: Parking is a challenge in the Mills 50 intersection. Pay attention to signage to avoid an accidental tow charge.
Lazy Moon at Mills 50
UCF grads will be rolling their eyes at me for my crime of delay, but it wasn’t until we relocated back to Orlando that I encountered the largest slice of pizza I’ve ever seen. Lazy Moon serves us delicious and enormous slices of ‘za, has a large selection of craft beer, and is a great place for families and large groups. We loved our first piece of pie so much that we have started a new tradition of going out for an early dinner on Friday nights before baby bedtime – a really fun habit that we are carrying with us into the new year!
TIP: Just ignore my child running and up down the tables in the bocce court. She won’t bite. She only has one tooth anyway…
THE ONE CHAIR TO RULE THEM ALL
If there was one constant to our 2018 table, it was our Vaggaro High Chair. This little device served our family so well, and it continues to fold open when we take our daughter to restaurants even when we’re not traveling!
TIP: To learn more about this multifaceted gadget, check out my blog post Travel Product Spotlight: Vaggaro, The Hippest Travel-Friendly Furniture for Tiny Tots for an in-depth feature and a discount code!
Incredible! Another year of tasty travels!
Wow, what a year 2018 was for memorable meals! As you can see, food is a very important part of all my travel experiences. In fact, trying new flavors and traditional dishes is one of my favorite things to do while traveling.
If you’re making plans to visit a new country or culture this year and want to make good food a top priority, let me plan your trip for you. I’ll make sure you eat so well that you’ll have to start your own “Best Eats” series!
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN TO SHARE…
Happy New Year, y’all! What dish from 2018 are you still dreaming about? What culinary creations are you seeking out in 2019? Also, have you returned a cocktail before? Have you ever indulged in a Polish paczki or a Portuguese custard pastry? What food-centric destination is on your travel bucket list?
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of these restaurants. Links to their websites have been provided to make your travel planning easier! :)