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The 10 Best Meals of 2017 …and More

Yes, it’s been quiet here for a few months now. It seems that every few years, I need a few months’ break from blogging.

But I realized last week that if I didn’t come back and write, I would miss out on this post. Sharing my favorite meals of the year is one of my favorite posts – and one of the most fun posts of the year to write! Need a refresher? Here’s my post from 2016.

So grab a napkin and get ready to pin these to your favorite food board on Pinterest – here are the 10 best meals and 5 most memorable drinks I had in 2017. Damn, it was a delicious year.

The Chef’s Table Aboard the Coral Princess

When it comes time to write this list, it’s always tricky: it’s impossible to put the best meals of the year in a ranked list, but some meals stand above others.

The Chef’s Table aboard the Coral Princess is one such meal (along with the next two on this list). While I was delighted to be Marissa’s guest aboard the Coral Princess and we ate some insanely delicious food (here’s what cruise food is really like), the Chef’s Table was the highlight.

Starting with appetizers in the kitchen, we enjoyed a multi-course meal that was as much artwork as indulgence. It’s the one splurge I would 100% recommend if you take a cruise that offers it! Princess Cruises does an especially nice job, with their Chocolate Journey’s dessert series and a signed copy of the Princess Cruises cookbook signed by the head chef for all Chef’s Table attendees.

How to have this meal for yourself:

  • The Chef’s Table is $95 per person and must be reserved in advance aboard a Princess Cruise.
  • Learn more on the Princess Cruises website. 

The Culinary Spectacle of Watertable, Huntington Beach

If we were ranking this list for most over-the-top, outrageous, insanely delicious meals, Watertable in Huntington Beach would give the Chef’s table a serious run for its money.

I took Mr. Valise to Huntington Beach for his 30th birthday, and Watertable was kind enough to host us for dinner one night. For starters, I am always humbled to be invited for dinner at a restaurant; I generally try to behave in the same cost-conscious way I would when dining on my own.

Watertable refused to accept my frugality, and our server basically forced us to have one of the best meals I’ve had in my life (much less in 2017!).

As you can see from the photos above (and the set above the header of this section), we were treated to more dishes than I’ve ever had at a single meal – and we now joke about the gold standard of dining: “was it a three-dessert meal?!”

Even more, the food was delicious, and the service was exceptional. It’s hard to create a perfect dining experience, but Watertable was as close as I’ve ever experienced.

How to have this meal for yourself:

  • Watertable is located in the Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach, along Highway 101.
  • Address: 21500 Pacific Coast Hwy, Huntington Beach, CA 92648
  • Reservations not required, but encouraged if you want a table outside.

Savoring the South at the North Carolina State Fair

In September, I moved from Seattle to the Bay Area to start my new job at Go Overseas; in October, I got to take an exciting trip to North Carolina to give away a $15,000 scholarship.

My colleague Michaela and I made “where to eat” inquiries around upon arrival, and were excited to learn the North Carolina State Fair was happening. After handing out the really big check, we set out in search of good southern food – and weren’t disappointed.

We had the chance to try some true Southern dishes like roast corn and pulled pork; a cardiac-arrest-and-diabetes-inducing Krispy Kreme burger; unexpectedly authentic poutine; and we even found honey cotton candy, a local favorite.

Southern cooking, as I understand it as an outsider, is all about rich, homey flavors, and the fair food we enjoyed exactly fit the bill.

How to enjoy this meal for yourself:

  • The North Carolina State Fair takes place outside Raleigh, North Carolina each October.
  • The dates for 2018 are October 11-28.
  • Check out their website for full details on next year’s festivities.

Chicago’s Best Deep Dish Pizza

When in Chicago, eat as the Chicagoans do!

One of my favorite parts of visiting the Midwest is the chance to enjoy insanely large portions full of delicious meats. While in Chicago visiting friends this summer, I spent a whole day enjoying just such types of food. The day ended with dinner at Gino’s East (the one in the South Loop, for reference), a deep dish pizzeria.

Best Meals of 2017: Deep Dish Pizza at Gino's East

Reported by my Chicago friend as the best deep dish in the city, it was a fun meal of pizza, beer, and good conversation. I hereby resolve to make more trips about pizza, beer, and good conversation in 2018.

How to have this meal for yourself:

  • Gino’s East in the South Loop is located at 521 S Dearborn St, Chicago, IL 60605.
  • There are other Gino’s East locations, but apparently, this is the best one.

Salted Caramel Custard and Other UnCruise Desserts

I’m calling out the Salted Caramel Custard dessert I enjoyed on my UnCruise Adventures cruise in Alaska in May, but every meal was pretty freaking amazing. In particular, the Salted Caramel Custard was creamy and rich, with fresh fruit you’d be surprised to find aboard a ship in the wilds of Alaska.

Best Meals of 2017: Everything Abroad UnCruise

Every other meal aboard the Safari Endeavor was incredible too. Every meal was rich and hearty, and the daily happy hour cocktails were a highlight of each afternoon after coming back aboard from an expedition. I was really spoiled this year when it comes to cruises and food aboard said cruises; it completely dispelled my misconceptions about cruise food.

How to have this meal for yourself:

  • UnCruise Adventures offers small-ship cruises all along the North & Central American Pacific coast. See the full list of destinations on their website.
  • Their Alaska cruise season starts in April 2018; 7-night cruises start at $2,995 per person, and you can get $200 per person off with their special code, AWAKE18.

Best Meals of 2017: Lobster Mac & Cheese at Lake Chalet

Lakeside Lobster Mac & Cheese

I took a trip to the Bay Area in May, and as part of that trip, I spent some time exploring Oakland. I fell in love, and when it came time to move to the area in September, I knew Oakland was where I wanted Mr. Valise and me to end up (we did).

One of the great meals I had during that first trip was at Lake Chalet. I had been eating and drinking all day, and wasn’t up for a full meal. Instead, I opted for a few appetizers, including the above Lobster Mac & Cheese. I don’t love lobster on its own – I always love mac & cheese. Together, they’re a power combo I can rarely refuse when I see it on the menu. The Lobster Mac at Lake Chalet is made with white cheddar and Fontina Parmesan, topped with breadcrumbs. Seriously amazing.

How to have this meal for yourself:

  • Lake Chalet is located on Lake Merritt at 1520 Lakeside Drive in Oakland, CA.
  • The Lobster Mac & Cheese is on their All-Day Menu, for $14.95 per serving. It’s perfect as an entree, or for sharing as a starter (if you’re willing to share!).

Best Meals of 2017: Lunch at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter

My Magical 30th Birthday Lunch at Universal Studios

You only live once, right? You only turn 30 once too. To celebrate, I decided to be “30 going on 13” (the opposite of this questionable 2004 rom-com) and went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood.

For lunch, Mr. V and I went to the Three Broomsticks and ordered an insanely expensive “get whatever you want” lunch. I had bangers and mash with butterbeer (my 2nd of 3 that day!) and Mr. V had fish and chips with pumpkin fizz. It was silly expensive, but I also loved sitting down to a lunch that, as an adult, was completely mine to choose and enjoy as I liked. 30’s been pretty good, in case you were wondering!

How to have this meal for yourself:

  • Plan your trip to the Wizarding World in Hollywood using my guide.
  • Tickets to Universal Studios Hollywood can be purchased on their website and start from $105 per person.
  • Entrees at The Three Broomsticks are $10-15 per person; here’s the full menu.

Local Alaskan Street Foot: Reindeer Sausage & Corn Fritters

Another great trip this year; Mr. Valise and I went to Alaska together for the first time. Since we started dating in 2014, I’ve been to Alaska twice without him. I decided this year was the right time to show him my home state! We spent Memorial Day weekend exploring Southcentral Alaska with me as his local guide.

One day, I took him to the Anchorage Market & Festival in downtown Anchorage (here’s my guide to that!) and we enjoyed some of my favorite foods. In particular, I made sure to take him to Tia’s reindeer sausage stand on 4th Avenue – there we enjoyed spicy reindeer (aka caribou) sausage with Tia’s trademark pineapple sauce. We also had fresh corn fritters from the Market, with honey butter. Seriously, piping hot corn fritters on a chilly Alaska morning can’t be beaten!

How to have this meal for yourself:

  • Plan your trip to Alaska using this itinerary I wrote; it is designed for a 10-day trip, but it can be easily modified for a shorter trip.
  • Tia’s reindeer sausage stand can usually be found at the corner of 4th Avenue and E Street. The stand has a yellow umbrella. There are loads of imitators, but Tia’s in my fave. 
  • You can find corn fritters in the Anchorage Market along the Northern line of food stands.

Best Meals of 2017: German/Midwest Food at Lakefront Brewing

German Food at Lakefront Brewing, Milwaukee

If you’ll remember from last year, I have a soft spot for German food. So while I didn’t get back to Germany during 2017, I did take every opportunity to enjoy brats, beer, and associated starches possible.

While in Milwaukee for the Women in Travel Summit, I went out with fellow bloggers for a dinner at Lakefront Brewery. Lakefront is as old as I am, started in 1987, and they have an awesome selection of craft beer and German food. We bonded about blogging and cheese curds – a perfect combo!

How to have this meal for yourself:

  • Lakefront Brewery is located in Brewer’s Hill in Milwaukee; 1872 N Commerce St, Milwaukee, WI 53212
  • Go for a pretzel or cheese curds ($9), or get a drei (3) sausage flight for $10.

Best Meals of 2017: Ivar's Fish & Chips

The Last Supper: Fish & Chips at Ivar’s in Seattle

Anyone’s who been to Seattle for more than a few days knows about Ivar’s – and many tourists see Ivar’s along the waterfront even if they don’t stop for famous fish and chips. Mr. Valise and I have been several times on our own staycation adventures.

In 2017, we only went to Ivar’s once, and I jokingly called it The Last Supper. Over fish and chips and seagull-watching, we talked about the fact we had just a few weeks left in Seattle and what the future might hold. (It turns out, the future from then has turned out to be pretty awesome!)

How to have this meal for yourself:

  • Ivar’s Acres of Clams is located at Pier 54 on the Seattle Waterfront (1001 Alaskan Way, Seattle, WA 98104).
  • Instead of heading to the restaurant, walk up to the order counter and grab a quick takeaway meal. Much more affordable, and you can sit outside and feed the seagulls!

Best Drinks of 2017: Blueberry Champagne

Seeing Blue: Rosenblum Cellars Blueberry Sparkling Wine

Changing flavors a bit, let’s talk about the best drinks of the year! To start, one of the most unusual and memorable: the blueberry sparkling wine at Rosenblum Cellars.

I had the chance to visit Rosenblum Cellars during my first trip to Oakland; I enjoyed a red wine tasting flight. Once Mr. Valise and I decided to move to Oakland, I took him to try the wine too. This second time, I tried the sparkling wine flight, and the final wine was a delicious blueberry one – and as you can see above, it was truly blue! Living near wine country is an exciting prospect for 2018!

How to have this drink for yourself:

  • Rosenblum Cellars is in Jack London Square, at 10 Clay St, Oakland, CA 94607.
  • Their tasting room is open from 11 am every day except Mondays.

Best Drinks of 2017: Fresh Coconut in Jamaica

Fresh Coconut in Ochos Rios, Jamaica

I tried a lot of new flavors during my Caribbean cruise on Princess Cruises; the cacao in Costa Rica was another one I debated on adding to my list of meals. When I tried to pick just one “land experience” for this list, the fresh coconut in Jamaica was a clear choice.

Shucked by a Jamaican woman on the side of the Martha Brae for $3, I had never enjoyed fresh coconut before. As Marissa and I floated down the river on our bamboo raft, we discussed travel, new experiences, and Pinterest (the bane of my blogging existence!). I was one of the first trips Marissa and I took together – but not our last (Joshua Tree, April 2018, here we come!).

How to have this drink for yourself:

  • You can book the Martha Brae rafting excursion from Princess Cruises on their website.
  • If you find your way to Jamaica and want to book the Martha Brae, check out their website.

Best Drinks of 2017: Lonely Planet's Travel Notes

Lonely Planet’s Travel Notes

If you look in our fridge right now, there are two kinds of beer: a collectible beer I bought at the Oregon solar eclipse, and a six-pack of Lonely Planet‘s Travel Notes. I’m sure I’ll crack into it someday, but Travel Notes was one of my favorite beers of the year – and it was a limited run, so I need to ration it out over… the rest of my life, I guess!

The International IPA was brewed in partnership with Lonely Planet and Fieldwork Brewing Company in Berkeley, and Mr. Valise and I happened to be on a house-hunting trip to the Bay Area on the launch night. You can read more about the brewing process and beer on the Lonely Planet blog.

How to have this drink for yourself:

  • Unfortunately, Travel Notes is no longer available!
  • You can visit Fieldwork and try their other beers at their Berkeley location: 1160 Sixth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710

Best Drinks of 2017: The Peppermint Schnapps Ice Luge

The Peppermint Schnapps Glacier Ice Luge

Pictured above, Marissa is enjoying peppermint schnapps, but no, we haven’t gone back for a college reunion or anything. While on a skift tour to Dawes’ Glacier as part of our UnCruise trip in Southeast Alaska, our expedition leader fished a chunk of ice out of the water. She then produced a bottle of peppermint schnapps and asked for a volunteer.

Each of us had a chance to grab the slippery ice and enjoy a shot of schnapps down the ice luge. Nothing quite like cooling peppermint, chilly ice, and a blast of katabatic winds off the face of a glacier to make you realize you’re really in Alaska!

How to have this drink for yourself:

  • Check out my section on the Salted Caramel Custard above!

Best Drinks of 2017: Lavender-Infused Bubble Tea

Lavender-Infused Tapioca Milk Tea at Asha Tea House

It may seem like I haven’t traveled a ton this year, and to be honest, I didn’t – but using 2016 as a point of comparison makes it hard to ever travel that much again!

To round out this list, I wanted to include something ‘close to home.’ Since I spend a lot of my time in Berkeley at work at Go Overseas, I had to include one of my favorite spots within walking distance of the office. The tapioca milk tea from Asha Tea House is not the standard super-fruity bubble tea I usually order, but it’s fancy and delicious, and the hint of lavender reminds me of Washington (which still feels a lot like “home” too).

How to have this drink for yourself:

  • Asha Tea House is a surprisingly beautiful tea house off one of Berkeley’s University Avenue, at 2086 University Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704. 
  • The Lavender-Infused Tapioca Milk Tea is $4.50.

What were your favorite meals of 2017?

7 Responses to “The 10 Best Meals of 2017 …and More

  • I have never seen a post like this before. I am so incredibly envious of all of the amazing foods you’ve had the opportunity to try! Honestly, if I ever take another cruise, it will be solely for the food. Lol.

    • Haha, thanks, I think! I started doing it a few years ago, and it’s a fun/different way to look back on my year and travels 🙂

  • Tracy Iglesias
    12 months ago

    I have never ever taken a cruise, I’m a cruise virgin! 🙂
    That Chef’s Table thing is right up my alley I will have to look into this when I take my first cruise!
    Lobster mac N Cheese is the *BUSINESS* NOM NOM NOM

    Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly

    • I hope you can take a cruise soon! I love small ship cruises, if that helps you choose 😉

      • Tracy Iglesias
        11 months ago

        Do the small ships have Casinos? Gaming Vacations on land are my favorite and I would love to have that option on sea as well.

  • mmmm all of this looks SO tasty! I am staaarving now haha!

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