A Few of My Favorite Things
It's the highlight reel for 2023
It’s that time of year again when we all get to slow down a little and take stock of the past twelve months. Personally, I enjoy the Best Of lists that crop up in December, because they remind me about places I was too busy to check out earlier, and because I love comparing notes about the things I loved.
For me, 2023 was a great ride — and also an incredibly busy one. A personal and professional highlight has been bringing the Gluten-Free Guidebook back to life on Substack. I started this project in 2008 on WordPress and it thrived until the pandemic hit and travel ground to a halt. It’s been thrilling to reconnect with people who’ve been reading the blog for years and to connect with a whole new audience. Here’s to traveling together into the new year and beyond! Remember, I love to hear about your travel experiences just as much as I enjoy sharing mine.
Now for some of my favorite places from the past year:
Of all the hotels I stayed at this year, the Classic Hotel by Athens Prime Hotels was my favorite. Located in Plaka — Athens’ oldest neighborhood — it’s a short walk from major tourist attractions including the ancient Agora, Hadrian’s Library, the Roman Agora, and the Acropolis itself. The room was small but it was well-designed, with a gorgeous balcony and a hot tub. The staff was incredibly thoughtful and served me a great gluten-free breakfast every morning. In short, I was spoiled. Read more about the hotel in this post.
Best meal in Athens? It’s incredibly tough to pick a favorite, but the place I most want to return to is Greek Stories, an entirely gluten-free restaurant right by the Acropolis Museum. If you have celiac disease and want to try all the wonderful traditional dishes Greek cuisine is famous for, this is the place to go. (My meal included fried saganaki cheese, pita bread, moussaka with ground beef and béchamel sauce, and baklava.) Read more about the restaurant in this post.
My favorite meal in Barcelona was at the hilariously named My F*cking Restaurant. It’s an absolute gem located in the vibrant multicultural El Raval neighborhood, and it’s 100% gluten-free. The cuisine is modern Catalan with an Italian twist, and it’s sophisticated and sublime. The plates are tapas-sized (think appetizer-sized) but many are priced under €10. (I will be writing more about MFR in the new year.)
There are so many contenders for favorite bakery, including Erin McKenna’s Bakery in New York and Jansana in Barcelona. But my heart belongs to Cookie Stéfanie in Montreal. When I travel, I try to visit as many different places as I can… but I have to admit that I was in Montreal for five days and visited Cookie Stefanie four times. What was the lure? Well, it could’ve been the grilled cheese sandwiches (don’t get me started on the version with bacon and apple), or the sweet treats like the caramel fleur de sel cake. This gluten-free bakery and cafe is a slice of heaven.
Best pizza in NYC: For years, the crown went to Pala Pizza, which had consistently great gluten-free pizza but equally flaky service. Sadly, Pala is no more, but that meant I needed to find a new favorite, and I’ve found it in PizzArte Cucina Napoletana. Pizzas are cooked to exacting Neapolitan standards, in a wood-burning oven (built from components imported from Naples) with temperatures above 900 degrees Fahrenheit. There are great vegetarian options but I’m obsessed with the Tartufata, a twelve-inch pizza with black truffles, mushrooms, mozzarella, smoked prosciutto, and basil.
What restaurants brought you joy in 2023? Whether you’re traveling for the holidays or staying put, I hope you have a happy and peaceful time. I’ll be away next week for Christmas, but I’ll be back the first Thursday in January. See you then!
PS For those who only know me as a travel journalist, my day job is actually mystery writer… and my standalone novel Her Last Breath is on sale on Kindle right now. It was a summer 2021 pick from Entertainment Weekly, Parade Magazine, and Travel + Leisure, and you can grab it for $2.49 before the end of December. (Travel fans should know it’s set in New York and Berlin.) Happy reading!
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