Family style dining at Officinal della Bistecca.
Family style dining at Officinal della Bistecca.

I love to travel for a variety of reasons, but if I had to pick one it would definitely be for the food. I love scouring the globe for life-changing or simply incredibly fun meals. For me dining out is the ultimate form of entertainment. Here are ten of my favorites in no particular order.

Officina della Bistecca, Panzano in Chianti

I’m not sure there’s a more fun meal to be had than the family style one served at butcher Dario Cecchini’s steak restaurant in the Tuscan countryside. You enjoy six beef courses from seared rump carpaccio to the region’s famed Bistecca alla Fiorentina at outdoor tables crammed in next to strangers. Thanks to the plentiful jugs of red table wine you’ll be buddies by the end of the meal.

Sunset views at the Willows Inn are nearly as spectacular as the food.
Sunset views at the Willows Inn are nearly as spectacular as the food.

The Willows Inn, Lummi Island

I think the best meal I’ve ever had was at this restaurant on Lummi Island in the San Juan Islands. It included 21 courses ranging from a candy-sweet piece of smoked salmon served in a cedar box to a tender spot prawn cooked in rock salt, all with a view of the sound. For a seafood lover, it’s perfection. The restaurant reopens after its annual winter closure March 18 so make your booking, especially for the busy summer months, soon.

The antique stove at In De Wulf.
The antique stove at In De Wulf.

In de Wulf, Belgium

Kobe Desramaults’ restaurant in the Belgian countryside is worth seeking out for its bold and rustic presentation, innovative use of local ingredients and amazing wine cellar stocked with obscure natural wines. It’s an Inn so you can stay there too and the breakfast cooked on a beautiful antique stove is delicious. Unfortunately, the restaurant is planning to go on hiatus after the end of this year so Desramaults’ can take a break. Get your visit in soon.

Parador La Huella, José Ignacio, Uruguay

When my husband and I went to Jose Ignacio it rained pretty much the whole time, but we ate at Parador La Huella three days in a row so the trip wasn’t a total loss. This grill restaurant is exactly what you dream of finding at the beach, casual but sophisticated with roaring asados turning out racks of lamb, whole grilled fish and crispy roasted potatoes.

Septime's bright blue facade makes it hard to miss.
Septime’s bright blue facade makes it hard to miss.

Septime, Paris

I love Chef Bertrand Grebaut’s cooking. It’s innovative but accessible. At his Parisian bistro the cuisine feels distinctly French, (almost all the ingredients he uses come from Île de France) but dishes are light and often feature vegetables as the star. The stripped down atmosphere is hip and unfussy.

The elegant dining room at Spring.
The elegant dining room at Spring.

Spring, London

Everything about Skye Gyngell’s restaurant in London’s Somerset House including the ambience, the service and the food is perfectly executed. Located in a Neoclassical, building the dining room has high ceilings, floor to ceiling windows, white columns, pale blue fabric covered walls and whimsical chandeliers that look like inverted bouquets of balloons. Gyngell’s cooking is soulful but restrained. A memorable dish of tender lamb with snappy asparagus, salsa verde, and deep fried lovage for a salty, seaweed-like punch truly was spring on a plate. This is what grown up dining should feel like.

Bar Amá, Los Angeles

I love Mexican food and Josef Centeno’s Tex-Mex restaurant in downtown LA just hits the spot with zippy margaritas, spicy guacamole and vegetable driven dishes like fried brussels sprouts with chipotle aioli.

Outside Miznon.
Outside Miznon.

Miznon, Paris

This Israeli street food restaurant in the Marais is really one of my favorite restaurants ever. It’s nothing fancy. You order at the counter. They’ll probably be blaring rap music and it’s all a bit chaotic but the food the kitchen turns out–fluffy pita bread filled with boeuf bourguignon, a whole head of roasted cauliflower and a blistered sweet potato are delicious and the type of thing you will crave over and over again.

Perfectly charred Neapolitan style pizza at Ken's.
Perfectly charred Neapolitan style pizza at Ken’s.

Ken’s Artisan Pizza, Portland

I’ve eaten pizza all over the world, including Naples, and nothing beats Ken’s prosciutto pie. The slightly blacked crust has the right chew. The tomato sauce is sweet and tangy and the prosciutto melts in your mouth. When I go back to my hometown of Portland, Oregon this is my must-do.

Zuni Cafe, San Francisco

This is not a very original pick, the restaurant opened in 1979, but the roast chicken and panzanella salad plus the timeless atmosphere make this the perfect West Coast bistro in my opinion. It’s very hard for me to go to San Francisco and not eat here.

Boeuf bourguignon at Cave Madeleine.
Boeuf bourguignon at Caves Madeleine.

Caves Madeleine, Beaune, France

The menu at this wine shop and restaurant changes each day. There are probably only ten dishes offered (five starters and five mains) and they’re scrawled on a chalkboard. It’s French home cooking at its best—I had boeuf bourguignon here once that I still dream about— and the wine offerings from some of Burgundy’s best under-the-radar producers are unbeatable!

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