There are so many options of things to recap when one year ends and another begins. Do I tell you of all of the best shit I bought? All of the gear that I was obsessed with? Sure. I might do that. But first I’m going to tell you about my favorite FOODS of 2017…BECAUSE I LOVE FOOD.

Fried Chicken Sando at Capitol Cider

Literally Everything at Capitol Cider (Seattle, WA)
I found Capitol Cider by chance. I was getting off of the train around Capitol Hill in Seattle, WA and started to google “Capitol Hill”. Before I could even hit enter, Google, in its infinite wisdom, suggested capitolcider.com. I like cider, I thought. So I clicked the link. Holy. Fuck. I found myself on the website of a 100% gluten free restaurant. Everything on the menu was gluten free and it wasn’t stupid gluten free stuff. Salads and grilled chicken is gluten free, I GET IT. I’m talking hush puppies, fried chicken sandwiches, fish and chips, fried cheese curds, mushroom rigatoni….needless to say I had just booked up my entire afternoon. I had the fried chicken sandwich and the chicken wings and it was UNBELIEVABLE. This wasn’t ‘pretend it’s good because it’s gluten free and I really want it to be good-good’. It was straight up GOOD. My friend Taylor (shethrivesblog) went back the next day for brunch where we got a cinnamon roll. CINNAMON ROLL. A FUCKING CINNAMON ROLL. And it wasn’t one of those dense, bullshit gluten-free cinnamon rolls. It was fluffy, and flaky, and sticky, and glorious. So we got two. Duh.

Velvet-like latte, cool-ass no-hande mug, and a gf brownie to boot.

Best Latte – Ghost Note Coffee (Seattle, WA) and La Moressa (Praiano, Italy)
I’ve tried a lot of latte’s all over the place this year. There is one that sticks out as the best state-side, and it was at Ghost Note in Seattle. It was basically drinking coffee-flavored velvet. I don’t have many lattes that stick out so much in my mind, so to still remember it nearly 9 months later is really saying something. Had I not traveled to Italy for my honeymoon and had the latte at La Moressa…I would’ve said Ghost Note was the best of the year…but you can’t really beat anything Italian-espresso-based. The common thread to both was the texture. Super creamy and smooth thanks to expertly steamed milk and perfect micro foam.

My Favorite GF-Bun Burger to Date is at Farmhouse Tap & Grill (Burlington, VT)
I’ve talked about the Farmhouse burger before in my guide to Burlington.I will say, once again, that the bun on this burger is so good I had to ask the server to double check that it was the gluten-free one.

I Can’t Get Enough Aperol Spritz.
Aperol, prosecco, club soda, and an orange. Who knew? I can’t get enough. Now, I don’t LOVE that Aperol is colored with red no 40 and I’ve found a suitable substitute if you’re in the market for something little more natural. Contratto Bitter has a very similar flavor profile but is colored with beet and carrots instead. My FAVORITE spritz was made with a different aperetivo, called Ramazzotti Aperative Rosato, which is colored (and flavored) with hibiscus. It’s got a much milder flavor profile than Aperol, but as far as I know it’s not available in the US (the same brand has another bitter called Amaro…that is NOT it).

Crispy Shrimp and Carne Asada Tacos at Loco

Loco Tacqueria Has All of the Tacos and All of the Margaritas and I Love It So Much (Boston, MA)
I spent a lot of time in Boston in 2017. First off, my sister moved there in the summer of ’16. Then, I decided to buy my wedding dress at a Nordstrom in Boston and ended up traveling up for fittings every few months. Then I did my CrossFit Level 2 at Reebok One…also Boston. I didn’t hate it though. I got to hang a lot with my sister AND eat at Loco SO MANY TIMES. My sister lives in Southie and this place is right up the road. It’s fucking awesome. The atmosphere is super chill and the tacos are slammin. It’s also worth noting that 99% of the menu is gluten-free. They mark the GF items, but they’d save ink by just marking the NON-GF stuff.  They also have an impressive oyster bar, but so far it seems like that’s just a requirement of doing business in Boston. I only JUST had the breakfast tacos on my last visit and not only are they exactly what you want from a breakfast taco (enough meat, a few eggs, and a little kick)…BUT THEY ARE HUGE. I will eventually be writing up my guide to Boston..but for now just go to Loco. OH – Bartaco is ALSO legit and has a bunch of locations from Nashville to Connecticut.

Not All Chains are Created Equal. After 10 years…I finally had Nando’s Chicken again (Baltimore, MD and other locations)
I spent a semester and then some in London in my junior year of college. My sister (different one than who is in Boston – there are three of us) was there for the entirety of her college education (sorry, UNIVERSITY) and upon my arrival she introduces me to Nando’s. She’s a vegetarian, and apparently they had the best kebab burger on the block. They specialize, though, in Peri Per chicken. Peri Peri, aka the African Bird’s Eye Chili, is the base of the sauce that they marinate and then coat their fire-grilled chicken in and it’s fucking outstanding. I don’t care that it’s a chain. It’s SO GOOD. And it’s fresh chicken that’s fire-roasted and you have to wait for it. It’s more ‘casual dining’ than fast-food. I’m going to stop defending myself now. I haven’t had Nando’s since getting back from London in 2007. I was meeting friends in Baltimore and oh – my – goodness….a Nando’s. A gleaming beacon of spicy chicken in a sea of sky scrapers. It was every bit as good as I remember. Get the poppyseed cucumber red onion salad as a side. Tart and picked and crispy and perfect.

My Favorite Sushi Is, and Will Forever Be, at Taka (Asbury Park, NJ)
Sometimes you just want what you know you love. Take has that one roll, the Ju-San Roll, that is my safety blanket of sushi rolls. I constantly crave it and I would probably eat it every day if I could. One of the things that keeps me going back though, is that any time I’ve been there for dinner I have seen the owner, Taka, working. It’s a bustling, busy, successful restaurant at the Jersey Shore and it would be easy to take a back seat. Yet, I still see him there bussing tables, running food, seating guests…whatever needs to be done. Top-notch sushi aside, I can get behind that. Oh, also some of the absolute best (and interesting) sushi nigiri I had this year was actually in Minneapolis at Kyatchi (you can read my twin city guide here!). 

The Coolest Bloody Mary Experience was Bostonia Public House and Their Make-Your-Own-Situation (Boston, MA).
In the age of social media, this is the smartest fucking thing I have ever seen. Public House has the most ridiculous line up of things to add to your bloody. From bacon-wrapped scallops to straight up donuts. You can tell who the veterans are because they build a ladder using celery and toothpicks, creating a TOWER of shit on top of their Bloody Mary. Why is it genius? Because what do you do when you build the Eiffel Tower of breakfast beverages compete with pastries and meat? You take a picture of it and you show EVERYONE YOU KNOW. The drink itself is pretty good, too.

Prawns, and Squid, and Shrimp…OH MY. Sidenote: Eat the shells. Comp that whole bish.

The Most Memorable Meal of 2017, bar none, was at Ripa del Sol (Riomaggiore, Italy)
Riomaggiore is one of the five villages in the region of Italy known as Cinque Terre, and it was where we spent a bulk of our honeymoon. I know talking about how good the food was in Italy is a little bit redundant…but this wasn’t the food that you may automatically think of when you think Italian dining. Riomaggiore (like the rest of Cinque Terre) is on the sea. Huge cliffs make up the neighborhoods and you’re not going to walk very far without scaling a few (dozen) steps. When we arrived, our AirBnB host was kind enough to pick us up at the train station and drive us to the apartment. Along the way, he gave us a full on dissertation of all-things Cinque Terre. Why the wine is different, how the village was settled and built, what Cinque Terre actually is, what we should definitely so and what we can skip. Before he left us, we asked for a dinner recommendation. He told us that Ripa del Sol is the best place in town…and then he called and made us a reservation. It was one of the best meals I have ever had in my life. The restaurant is literally in the harbor where boats come in with their catch from the day. You cannot get fresher seafood…and we ordered a huge plate of it. Prawns, shrimp, squid…all grilled and on a platter. Simple. Perfect. We also had squid ink homemade pasta with squid and cockles that didn’t suck at all.

So there you have it. A year in food. Those are just a few of the standouts. I expect to be posting a more in-depth recap of Italy, as well as a guide to my Boston picks. One day I’ll probably even get all my favorite local NJ spots on here. In the meantime, you can follow #kristinfindsfood for all of my favorite real-food/gluten-free/delicious food finds on my travels or the coffee spots I suss out with #kristingetscoffee.

2017 was a pretty amazing year. I got to travel a lot, and all over the place. I had some once in a lifetime experiences from a kick ass wedding to a mind-blowing honeymoon all over the Italian coast. 2018 has a lot to live up to…but here’s to trying!

Other shit worth mentioning and looking at:

Frank in Austin, TX has the best Bloody Mary ever made with house-made bacon vodka. Plus unique sausages and GF bun to boot.

 

Barrio Costero, Asbury Park, NJ. They make the best margaritas in NJ. All fresh juices, even the well tequila is 100% blue agave, and they serve them in heavy-bottomed tumblers which I love. You can mix up the classic ‘Marg’ with a selection of salts: peppercorn, Chile-lime, cinnamon. Just ask and you sell receive.

 

I went to Souvla in San Fransisco on the recommendation of Daine Sanfilippo and I was not disappointed. Huge Greek salad with Harissa-yogurt lamb leg. I legit still crave it and it’s been a year.

 

High Voltage Cafe is a new addition to the Asbury Park, NJ coffee scene. It’s got a great area to sit down and work while sipping well-made lattes and pour-coffee.

 

I go to Thinking Cup every time I’m in Boston and need to post-up with my lap top for a little while. Not only is the coffee great, but you can get a breakfast sand with GF bread AND they have a collection of macarons. Ok thanks. Sold.

 

More from Loco Taqueria because I just love it so much. So much that I don’t even LIVE there and my sister still got me a gift card for Christmas. This is their wings and a tuna tartare.