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Monday, December 30, 2013

2013 in Review

Momofuku Seiobo Sydney pork buns, deep-fried parons nose and pork fat caramel donuts

2013. Who knew that one year could be full of so much deliciousness? In 2013, Grab Your Fork turned nine years old. It was also the year I finally met Reid, the Hawaiian food blogger who inspired my own foray into the blogosphere in April 2004. We met over lunch at Momofuku Seiobo where I sank my teeth into David Chang's famous pork bun, crunched through deep-fried parsons noses and savoured a pork fat caramel donut for dessert. Its a degustation I'm still marvelling over, and a kitchen show I'd never quite seen before, with its quiet and seamless transitioning of dishes.

Fried chicken: Mary's Newtown; Red Pepper Strathfield; Willy Mae's New Orleans; and Momofuku Noodle Bar, New York
Clockwise from top left: Mary's, Red Pepper, Willy Mae's and Momofuku Noodle Bar

There was fried chicken of course. Lots of it. We revelled in the pressure-cooked crunch that is Mary's southern-style chicken and went to Strathfield Sports Club for our kind of exercise: digesting Korean fried chicken at Red Pepper.

The search for the world's best fried chicken included a pilgrimage to David Chang's Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City for his two bird feast. However the 2013 fried chicken crown went to Willy Mae's southern fried chicken in New Orleans. That chicken skin was like crack. You couldn't help but shudder with every mouthful.

Reuben sandwich at Katz's Deli, NY; bone marrow at Animal Restaurant, LA; chicken liver parfait at Craftbar, NY; and smoked beef brisket sandwich from La Barbecue, Austin
Clockwise from top left: Katz's Deli, Animal Restaurant, Craftbar and La Barbecue

Yes in late May, Suze, Lex and I set off on a three-week holiday around the United States. We called it the big donut, fried chicken and bbq tour. You say binge. I say research. Heh.

We started in LA where I fell in love with the nose-to-tail quirkiness of Animal Restaurant. We moved onto to Austin where we ate at five different Texan barbecue houses. La Barbecue's smoked bbq brisket was the fattiest hunk of bliss I've ever had the pleasure of feasting on. We hoovered up everything in our way in New Orleans, Chicago and Kansas City but spent the most time in New York City with visits to Katz's Deli (yes! yes! yes) and Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio's Craftbar.

Icing donuts at The Donut Man, LA; beignet from Cafe Du Monde, New Orleans; cronuts from Dominique Ansel Bakery, NY; and bacon maple donut from Gourdough's, Austin
Clockwise from top left: The Donut Man in LA, Cafe du Monde beignet in New Orleans, Dominique Ansel's original cronuts in NYC and Gourdough's bacon maple donuts in Austin

Heck yes there were donuts. Sooooooo many donuts. In LA we wept with joy when we realised that The Donut Man was open 24/7. Do you know how good a freshly made donut tastes at 3am?! We covered ourselves in icing sugar from the pillowy soft beignet at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans, discovered the joy of crisp bacon and maple syrup donuts from Gourdough's in Austin, and yes we lined up for two hours to try the original cronut by Dominique Ansel in New York.

Helicopter views from Sydney to Hunter Valley for a tasting of King Island Dairy cheeses
Helicopter ride from Sydney to the Hunter Valley for a King Island Dairy cheese tasting

I'd never been in a helicopter before so being flown from Sydney to the Hunter Valley for a King Island Dairy cheese tasting was an opportunity I couldn't miss. Sure I felt like I was on a group date with The Bachelor (haha!) but oh boy, Sydney really does look stunning from the air, and there ain't no grander entrance than landing at a vineyard by chopper, that's for sure.

Sea lions on Kangaroo Island; a scenic picnic; shopska salad and daily life in Bulgaria
Top: Sea lions and a picnic lunch at Kangaroo Island
Bottom: Scenes from Bulgaria and shopska salad made with sirene white cheese

Another famil enabled me to explore Kangaroo Island - I'm still loving the bottles of extra virgin olive oil I picked up - but the surprise trip of the year had to be the dairy tour of Bulgaria I was invited on by the European Union. I'm totally up on lactobacillus bulgaricus and I definitely plan on shaving white feta on my salads this summer, just like the Bulgarians do.

Tamale from Colombia Organik; strozza preti al ragu di carne at Pasta Emilia; smoked wagyu tongue at Nomad; and winter vegetables at In The Annex
Clockwise from top left: Colombia Organik, Pasta Emilia, Nomad and In The Annex

In Sydney, there were no shortage of restaurant openings and closings but it's the ones with heart that I love best. I love that there's a tiny cafe selling Colombian talamale and emapanadas just down the road from Railway Square that too few people know about. I love the simplicity and passion behind Pasta Emilia in Surry Hills, who make all their own pastas from scratch.

I love that the folks at Nomad in Surry Hills make their own cheeses and charcuterie, and I love that the chefs at In The Annex in Forest Lodge can spend ten minutes plating winter vegetables in "soil" for a $14 lunch.

Indian Chopsticks Indian Chinese cuisine, Harris Park; Kebab Abo Ali Iraqi Restaurant, Fairfield; and Jambo Jambo Ethiopian Restaurant, Crows Nest
From top left: Indian Chopsticks, Kebab Abo Ali and Jambo Jambo

And I love that my monthly column with Time Out Sydney has me scurrying the depths of Sydney to find the restaurants that don't always get a mention in the mainstream papers.

Three of the most intriguing venues I've uncovered this year include Indian Chinese cuisine at Indian Chopsticks in Harris Park; eating Iraqi-style sheep's head from Kebab Abo Ali in Fairfield, and tucking into Ethiopian raw beef with spiced butter and injera bread at Jambo Jambo in Crows Nest.

It's been an amazing year. I hope yours has been as well.

Thank you for reading Grab Your Fork throughout the year and a big thanks especially for those who take the time to comment. They really do make my day :)

Bring on 2014. With more hadoukens too!

Hadouken and Dragon Ball Z-ing in LA, New Orleans, Chicago and Kangaroo Island
37 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/30/2013 01:18:00 am


  • At 12/30/2013 1:49 am, Blogger Tina @ bitemeshowme said…

    what an epic 2013 you had helen with all your delicious eats and crazy "research" around the USA - you def had everyone drooling at their screens from all your holiday posts. Here's to a delicious 2014 ahead, and yes, more hadoukens. I haven't done one since i made andrew pose infront of the hawaiian sunset! ahha x

  • At 12/30/2013 1:53 am, Blogger YaYa said…

    Happy, um, nonoversary? We love reading you and it's good to see there's some other folks out there who think the wee hours of the morning are the most creative!

  • At 12/30/2013 2:13 am, Anonymous Amanda @lambsearsandhoney said…

    It sure looks like a brilliant year, Helen - that precis of the US trip has me feeling like I've put on weight just from reading it!
    The Bulgarian trip was a high point for me too, not least 'cos we got to spend some quality time together. And I look forward to more of that next year!
    Happy new year.xxx

  • At 12/30/2013 9:14 am, Anonymous Chris @ MAB vs Food said…

    Wow what a delicious year 2013 has been for you, Helen! As always, amazing photography and I look forward to reading your food adventures in 2014. And I love those hadouken shots!

  • At 12/30/2013 9:22 am, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    AWESOME recap. i feel full already. always love your hadoukens — they're so cool :-)

  • At 12/30/2013 9:30 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    I love that I get the pleasure and joy of knowing you. Fingers crossed we find each other somewhere in 2014, too. xo

  • At 12/30/2013 9:31 am, Blogger gaby @ lateraleating said…

    Man, I just put on 5 kg just by reading this post :)

  • At 12/30/2013 9:54 am, Blogger Jarhead said…

    Thanks for all the fantastic posts this year! Looking forward to reading more next year :)

  • At 12/30/2013 10:21 am, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    you champ! powering thru all that good food! cheers to a even more food filled 2014!

  • At 12/30/2013 10:43 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    All that american food... and meat and all the good stuff... mmmmm

  • At 12/30/2013 12:20 pm, Anonymous billy @ a table for two said…

    Here to more Hodouken in 2014! LOL

  • At 12/30/2013 12:44 pm, Blogger irene said…

    I say it's research too LOL. What a great post! Looking forward for more delicious posts in 2014. Happy new year, Helen!

  • At 12/30/2013 1:16 pm, Blogger Sherrie @ Crystal Noir said…

    Incredibly jealous of all your travelling you managed to do this year! I cannot wiat to follow your adventure next year :D All the best for 2014 and here's to more delicious food!

  • At 12/30/2013 2:54 pm, Blogger Sarah said…

    What an amazing year you've had! I've loved following your blog and looking forward to more delicious posts next year! :)

  • At 12/30/2013 5:33 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    hehehe eat ALL the foods! here's to an even more delicious 2014!

  • At 12/30/2013 5:55 pm, Anonymous ChopinandMysaucepan said…

    Dear Helen,

    This is such a fantastic round up of all the goodies and isn't this why we blog? To keep ourselves honest and to have a living record of all that delicious food we stuffed ourselves with!!

    Have a great 2014!

  • At 12/30/2013 6:00 pm, Anonymous Cindy (A Foodie's Joy) said…

    Looks like you had an absolute blast in 2013! Looking forward to what 2014 will have in store for you! Have a great new year!! :)

  • At 12/30/2013 6:53 pm, Anonymous india2australia said…

    Absolutely beautiful food, the best we have tasted in Australia and we eat out and travel a lot. The restaurant is spotless and the owners are very inviting. Would suggest this restaurant and the Divine food to all.

  • At 12/30/2013 7:57 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    Big Love! I wish I had been along for each of those delicious adventures, not only for the ultimate doughnut hunt in the states, but to fried chicken mecca too! Amazeballs indeed!

    with your gorgeous snaps, it's as if we had, I gotta get to Mary's and soon. Can you believe I'm yet to go, even though this girl resides in the inner west :)

  • At 12/30/2013 8:29 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    what an epic year 2013 has been. can't wait to eat and drink it ALL in 2014!

  • At 12/30/2013 9:30 pm, Blogger Peter G | Souvlaki For The Soul said…

    What an epic eating extravaganza of deliciousness Eleni! Thank you for sharing it all! All the best for 2014!

  • At 12/30/2013 10:07 pm, Anonymous MrsPigflyin' said…

    Thank you for sharing your amazing 2013! Looking forward to another delicious year!!

  • At 12/31/2013 12:17 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    What an amazing spread of all the food you've eaten and Happy New Year Helen! Bring on the FOOD for 2014 :D

  • At 12/31/2013 12:26 am, Anonymous JJ - 84thand3rd said…

    What a spectacular year! FIY, in 2014 I'm climbing into your carry-on ;D I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and best wishes for the new year!

  • At 12/31/2013 1:37 am, Blogger Annie said…

    So many yummy adventures! Cheers to an awesome 2014!

  • At 12/31/2013 2:54 pm, Blogger Jacq said…

    Happy New Year Helen! Loved reading all your travel posts, particularly the US ones! Here's to more fried chicken in 2014!

  • At 1/01/2014 10:15 am, Anonymous Mary @ beyondjelly said…

    Well done on nine years! I blame you that I now have to travel to New Orleans next time I'm in the US. ;)

  • At 1/01/2014 11:29 am, Anonymous msihua said…

    Happy New year Helen!! You have had such an amazing year and 2014 can only get better! Wheeeeee

  • At 1/02/2014 12:14 am, Anonymous Alana said…

    This is NOT the post to be reading when hungry and midnight. Such a great round up of what the food universe has had to offer this year. Helicopters and cheese!! Lucky you.

  • At 1/02/2014 1:59 am, Anonymous gastronomous anonymous said…

    what an awesome write up of 2013!!! hope you have a fantastic 2014 - no doubt it will be better than 2013!

  • At 1/02/2014 5:16 pm, Anonymous Iron Chef Shellie said…

    What an awesome awesome year!! Let's see what food trends come up this year! x

  • At 1/03/2014 7:18 am, Blogger Ramen Raff said…

    Happy New Year Helen!! Your 2013 looked pretty damn fine! hahaha especially the US research.

  • At 1/03/2014 1:58 pm, Blogger vegeTARAian said…

    Great recap, what an incredible year you've had! I have no idea how you make those amazing hadouken pics but I want to see MORE!

  • At 1/04/2014 11:28 pm, Anonymous sara | Belly Rumbles said…

    Happy New Year Helen, what a delicious year you have had :)

  • At 1/05/2014 11:05 am, Blogger ista said…

    So glad it's been a great year for you .. and 9 years, wowsa, fantastic you're still inspired to write your blog

  • At 1/05/2014 2:27 pm, Blogger Felicia @ Next Stop: Food said…

    Happy 9 years HELEN!!!
    and Happy New Year!!

    2013 was a great year of eats with us all being insanely in love with fried chicken and always out to find "the best" ;)

    So excited to see what new awsome food 2014 has in store for us all!!

    Have a great one!

    - Cassie x

  • At 1/07/2014 10:37 am, Anonymous Jen @ I Ate My Way Through said…

    Happy new year! You've got me hooked on doing those Hadouken pics now!


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