Although the year didn’t afford me much time for blogging (as I was quite occupied trip planning for clients!), 2019 sure didn’t stop me from enjoying some great eats! As it has become a Global Heartbeat Travel tradition, I am laying out all of my Best Eats of the Year, so that if you find yourself in any of these locations in the seasons to come, you will know exactly where to go for a tasty bite or fantastic drink!
When in Guatemala…
“The Swiss Family Domeck” kicked off our 2019 from Antigua, Guatemala – a positively delightful city and a marvelous place to celebrate as a family of three. Here are a few things you might want to do if you find yourself in this city chock full of charm:
… Eat all the fresh corn tortillas!
One thing I loved about Guatemala was the common practice of baking fresh corn tortillas on a huge drum out in the open. At Rincón Típico, the tortilla ladies were stationed in the street entrance. At Restaurante 7 Caldos, the tortilla grills were in the corner of the courtyard. It was such a delight to watch the locals make this delicious tradition right before your eyes!
…Toast marshmallows over hot rocks on the Pacaya Volcano
Guatemala is home to well 35 volcanoes, and quite a few active ones are near Antigua. We booked a tour to hike up Pacaya, and our guide stopped us in the middle of a lava field to roast some marshmallows. It was Heidi Rose’s first marshmallow – ever – and she couldn’t have had a more epic place to try this treat!
…Don’t miss the view from El Restaurante San Cristóbal El Alto
For our final night in Antigua, we enjoyed dinner with a spectacular sunset view. Honestly, I don’t remember what I ate, but I remember DYING over the insane vista from this mountaintop restaurant. Volcan del Fuego was backlit by the sun, as it emitted little puffs of smoke. The city sparkled once the sun went down. It was absolutely charming.
When in Southern Spain…
I was lucky enough to return to my beloved Spain twice in 2019 through my job as a Global Works trip leader. Both of my itineraries kept me in the southern state of Andalucía (Andalusia) and allowed me to revisit many favorites. Let me run you through a few:
…Enjoy the liveliness of Sevilla
Mercifully, Sevilla has no shortage of great places to eat and drink. In fact, the city comes alive at meal times (and pre-meal times). For some great tapas, I enjoy Bar Catalina La Heroina, which is on the edge of the Santa Cruz neighborhood, and I always end up at Taberna Coloniales, whose out-of-this-world portion sizes continue to take me by surprise. This past year, I found myself dining (alone) at Bar Pelayo twice in two days. Gazpacho in a glass? ¡Sí, por favor! A whole leg of Pulpo to myself? ¿Cómo que no?
In my humble opinion, one of the best culinary experiences in Sevilla is the paella workshop hosted by Taller Andaluz de Cocina in the Triana Market. Participants start by making fresh gazpacho, then put together a traditional paella, and conclude with enjoying the spoils of their labor and learning.
[FYI – Often, I advise against ordering paella in Spain unless you are A) in Valencia or B) positive that it is made “properly.” Sadly, there is just a lot of bad paella out there.]
Anyway, at Taller Andaluz, not only do you have a fun time learning how to make this Spanish dish, you also get to enjoy one of the best tasting paellas I’ve ever had – ever! It’s basically a win-win.
*I’ve got to give a shout out to La Abuela for the widest selection of delicious helados in town! Ice cream/gelato is a must in Sevilla… the perfect city to stroll around in with a cup or a cone in hand.
…Soak up the coast in Málaga
Málaga’s adorable old town is chock full of eateries. In fact, a lot of newish hipster-ish places have popped up in recent years (craft beer in Spain, gasp!). While I always enjoy a thorough exploration of Málaga’s restaurant and bar scene (always El Pimpi for the historic setting), my most memorable bite in this coastal queen was the Pata de Pulpo I ordered from a tapas stand operating in the Mercado Central de Atarazanas. Oh my goodness. Grilled to perfection and worth every penny. I went there once by myself and then took my co-leader back once she arrived. It was that good. When in Spain, try the octopus!
…Relax in laidback Granada
One reason I love being a Global Works Travel trip leader is being able to go back to some favorite places year after year. In Granada, we almost always go to Arrayanes, a Moroccan restaurant with a sweet staff, as well as take flamenco lessons, eat dinner, and see the show at Jardines de Zoraya. The mint tea and the lamb tagine at Arrayanes are two things that I would go back to Granada for in a heartbeat. And as shared in one of my few blog posts of 2019, I love pretty much everything about Jardines de Zoraya.
When in Nepal…
If you have subscribed to receive “Postcards from Hailey,” then you’ll already know I spent most of November in Nepal with the #CreateConnectNepal photo-workshop and trekking tour designed by Melissa Findley and Carmen Huter. Here are two things you can not miss when you visit the land of the Himalayas:
… Don’t miss Or2K in Kathmandu and Pokhara
With a large vegan-friendly menu, we ate at Or2K a lot. Like more than 6 times, and sometimes twice in one day. So, I got to know the menu very well. And I must say, it’s good. Inspired by Middle-Eastern cuisine, you can enjoy your hummus and pita while sitting on the floor at low tables. I think it’s a required stop on any journey through Nepal’s two largest cities.
… Order Dal Bhat – anywhere and everywhere
The national dish of Nepal is dal bhat, which is a combination of lentil soup and curry with rice. Each dish is served in separate bowls on a large platter and it almost always comes with free refills of whatever element you want. When you are trekking in more remote areas, dal bhat may be the only thing on the menu… but embrace it and the friendly people you’re visiting!
When in Manhattan, New York…
Justin took me to The Big Apple for my birthday, while our #littleAlpenRose and fluffy pup stayed home with the grandparents. As such, we made the most of our kid-free dining experiences and flew home with some new recommendations for NYC.
… Fuel up at Jacob’s Pickles on the Upper West Side
We left the south and went straight to Jacob’s Pickles, a southern-style eatery that features fried chicken, pickles and beer. I know, that seems a bit backwards. But let me tell you, it was great! We actually sat at the bar (always get to know your bartender!) and soaked up the vibes of this hip restaurant.
… Dine light at Buvette in Greenwich Village
When in New York, why not feel like you’re in Paris? The self-described gastrothèque opened in 2011, and it delivers delightful locally-sourced European-style small plates. Indeed, the steak tartare and the croque monsieur were marvelous.
… Drink fancy at The Aviary in the Mandarin Oriental
Located on the upper floor of this 5-star hotel, this cocktail bar designed by famous Chicago chef Grant Achaz delivers drinks that will blow your mind and rock your tastebuds. Although the scene feels a bit “early 90s Wall Street business lounge” and the prices are steep, The Aviary truly innovates when it comes to cocktails. Definitely not a place to bring the baby.
When in The South (USA)…
Y’all, I am a southern girl – but my Southern travels are almost always to visit family. The Southeastern states of the USA have an incredibly rich culinary heritage, where you can drown your sorrows in equal amounts sweet tea, pork fat, buttered biscuits, and your alcohol of choice. As for me, I got in a few memorable meals in these southern cities, none of which involved biscuits, though.
…Splurge for a meal at Bottega in Birmingham, Alabama
Unless you subscribe to Southern Living Magazine, you may not know that Birmingham is home to one of America’s top chefs, Frank Stitts. Justin and I went on a double date with my brother and his wife to enjoy a taste of the Italian countryside at Bottega. There’s the fine dining room and a more casual cafe nextdoor, plus a charming patio for pleasant afternoon sips.
…Recall the past at The Swan Coach House in Atlanta, Georgia
With stunning embroidered wall paper, delicate china, and drapery for days, taking a seat in The Swan Coach house invites you to recall a time before fast food chains made up your weekly diet. Over my cousin’s wedding weekend, the ladies celebrated his bride-to-be at this historical building in Buckhead. When I saw a colorful frozen fruit salad nestled next to chicken salad in puff pastries and cheese straws, I knew we had just stepped back about 50 years in the past. It was marvelous.
…Arrive hungry at Captain Anderson’s in Panama City Beach, Florida
Growing up, I spent every summer on “The Emerald Coast” in PCB, and nowadays my parents are straight up seasonal locals. This wonderfully touristy town has no shortage of great seafood dives and plenty of not-so-great ones. On my last visit to my favorite beach town, my parents and I took Heidi Rose to her first visit to Captain Anderson’s – which is a staple establishment of dining in PCB.
From stuffed Gulf shrimp to fresh grouper and scamp, to the plentiful sides (baked potatoes, salads, hushpuppies) and the best bread rolls, you will walk out as stuffed as my favorite dish, the stuffed flounder. I’m sorry that I can’t pull our family’s strings to get you a table faster, but trust me when I say… a meal at Captain Anderson’s is worth the wait!
When in Central Florida…
Did you know that the U.S. state of Florida is over FOUR times larger than the country of Switzerland? That’s a lot of land for a lot of great restaurants! Since Florida was home for ALL of 2019, you can imagine that we had some good eats in the land of plenty. As such, I’m going to write another post dedicated to listing even more Orlando Favorites and share only my top picks today:
…Soak up the beach vibes at Third Wave in New Smyrna Beach
Hands down one of my favorite meals of 2019 was at this awesome NSB establishment that effortlessly blends a laid-back vibe with upscale cuisine. The heirloom tomato salad with burrata was divine and the pulpo rivaled my favorites in Spain. Without question, I would drive the 2+-hour round trip just to dine here again!
…Feel like a local at Plant Street Market in Winter Garden
With great food vendors and the Crooked Can Brewing Company all under one roof, sample some tasty bites on the coolest block of downtown Winter Garden (just outside of Orlando). I died over the real raclette I ordered from Morthan Cheese… with a cool winter breeze outside, I closed my eyes and convinced myself I was back in Switzerland!
…Treat yo’self at Buttermilk Bakery in Winter Park
With a smattering of tantalizing baked goods lining the front counter, it’s so hard to decide which delicious pastry to try at the Buttermilk Bakery. If you can snag a seat for brunch, you will not be disappointed by this small but mighty eatery. Heidi Rose got a brioche donut with sprinkles for her birthday, and she suggests everyone celebrate their birthday in the same way!
…Get an explosion of flavor at Black Rooster Taqueria in Orlando
2019 was a big year for us… we bought a house. And the first meal we ate in our newly-purchased unfurnished home was takeout from a neighboring restaurant that has quickly become a go-to favorite (both for take out and dining in). Black Rooster serves us some of the best tacos in town. And that’s saying something. Orlando has a lot of great taco places! The BR Nachos are a delicious mess that I want someone at my table to get every. single. time.
Honorable Mention: My dear friends, Natalie and Tim Lovero, are in the process of launching their own restaurant. Until they can make that dream of their own brick-and-mortar establishment come true, they host private dinners in their home. For Justin’s birthday, Tim served our crew a 10-course meal that was phenomenal. Cherry tomatoes drizzled with aged beef fat and sprinkled with bronze fennel from the backyard was the first morsel in our mouths, and my favorite may have been the charred romaine heart with salmon roe and chicken jus. Or was it the market greens with bone marrow and egg yolk? No, it was the foamy chestnut mushroom with blackberry and cocoa nib for dessert! If you are in Orlando and want a world class private dinner, you can book a table for eight at the Lovero’s home!
Whew! What a year of great eats!
I have come to cherish this annual exercise, because it allows me to look back on some of my favorite memories from the year. Because let’s be honest, great meals are always a highlight of any trip or ordinary day. This year’s post certainly demonstrated my love for grilled octopus… I guess that means that 2019 was the Year of Pulpo for me – ha! I’m excited to see what delicious surprises are in store for 2020.
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN TO SHARE…
Happy New Year, y’all! What dish from 2019 are you still dreaming about? Do you have a food-centric destination on your travel bucket list for 2020? How do YOU feel about grilled octopus?
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of these restaurants. Links to their websites have been provided to make your travel planning easier! :)