Make that 12… I couldn’t narrow it down!
I am forced to leave out lemon ice in Aleppo Syria, salumi in Sicily, smoked meats in Berchtesgaden, the World Body Painting Festival in Austria, eating street food in Hong Kong, chili crab and laksa in Singapore, market prowling in Hanoi, noodle soup in Bangkok, dining and dancing in Buenos Aries, going down the Pilchi River and the Suriname River on Amazonia trips, catching puffin in Iceland and about a dozen other experiences that would make anyone elses top five list. I am a lucky SOB.
1. Sunrise at Angkor Wat
Being allowed in to the temple a few hours before it was opened to the public. Spiritual awakening on steroids.
2. A week at The Grand Hotel Europe in St Petersburg.
The single best hotel experience of all time. Massive apartment suite, caviar on the buffet at breakfast, Arab princes Russian oligarchs, Chinese tong chieftains, international supermodels…all hanging in the lobby bar, the restaurants….the spa. Seriously the single coolest hotel on the planet.
3. Hunting big game in Namibia.
Getting lucky (see photo above… that’s a blue wildebeest) and then donating the meat to an AIDS orphanage that hadn’t seen ‘beef’ in six months.
4. Spending a week with Unchartered Africa’s Ralph Bousfield in the Aha Hills of Botswana.
Easily the coolest tented safari experience available, and the tribal immersion wasn’t too shabby either.
5. Enjoying a meal in Dashka’s tent on the wild steppes of Mongolia.
It’s as far removed from modern life as anywhere on the planet, huddling for warmth around a dung oven, drinking fermented mare’s milk, I accidentally married off my son to my hosts daughter. Best night of my life.
6. Buying a whole tuna at auction in Tsukiji Market.
…and eating some of every part of the tuna. Then spending the next four hours eating my way through the whole building.
7. Eating at three 3-star Michelin restaurants in one day in Paris.
Oh, and my morning was spent at Poilane and Pierre Herme and my afternoon was spent getting a private lesson in food deconstruction from Herve This. Not too shabby.
8. Lalumanu beach in Samoa.
The best swim/snorkel/food beach on the planet. I have been told the beach and the reef was heavily damaged in last years tsunami and several people I met there perished in that horrific event. A beautiful country that everyone should see.
All of it. But the best day there was the day spent sailing through the Queens Islands on the southern side of the island country. Diving for lobster. Deep sea fishing. Smoking the best cigar on the planet…and getting stalled in the middle of the ocean with a Cuban national on board the boat and realizing that this was against the law made the day even more special.
10. A few days spent on the Daly River.
Living with the aboriginal people there, eating huge fish pulled from the river and driving back and forth along “the track,” a huge dirt road highway system linking Darwin with the area known as “outback of beyond”.
11. Free diving a remote atoll of the Great Barrier Reef .
Sailing to an uninhabited island for a grill out feast of rainbow crayfish.
12. Spending a day cooking and eating with Ferran Adria at el Bulli.
Revelatory in every sense of the word. I spent a day with him back in 2007, in what I think of as the heyday of this glorious restaurant and watching the master do a seaweed tasting, create a 3-course dessert form a pine tree with this brother Albert or simply make lunch for he and I (escabeche of baby rabbit) in the middle of a hectic day was about a cool a food experience as you could ever want to have.