The champagne glasses are washed and put away, the hangover is only a distant memory and chances are that one or two resolutions have already been broken... yes, I know, January is already in full swing and nary a peep has been heard around here! I apologize for my extended absence - Manuel and I just flew in from Seattle yesterday, where we enjoyed the wonderful and blissfully internet-free holidays with my family. Living in Europe certainly has its perks, but spending most Christmases away from home certainly is not one of them, and it was a rare treat to be able to go this year, even though we have both returned weighing about ten pounds more - a fact I will verify just as soon as I can bring myself to step on the scale! Ah, but it was worth it. Apart from the eggnog, crabcakes, bagels, Mexican food, cheese fondue and copious amounts of the usual sugar-coated holiday suspects, there was an incredible crispy drunken chicken sandwich with truffle fries at Baguette Box, a bánh mì pilgrammage to Seattle Deli (this time wisely on an empty stomach) and some of the best sushi ever at Shiro's (if you go, sit at the bar and tell them you'll eat whatever they give you. Really. You won't regret it.). There was also, of course, plenty of catching up with family and friends and shopping and trying to enjoy the brief respite between the end of my old life and the looming uncertainty of the new...
But while I was eating and relaxing and doing my best to avoid thinking about blogging, a couple of important things happened. The first was that the Menu for Hope ended on December 22 with a staggering $60,925 raised! This represents a more than tripling of last year's total. Thank you all so, so much for your generosity, and those of you who are nervously perched on the edge of your chairs waiting to hear if you are the lucky winner of a certain lunchbox have only 9 more days to go! The second piece of news is that I am humbled beyond belief to have again been nominated for the annual Food Blog Awards, this year in the categories of Best Writing and Best Overall Blog. There is so much talent represented in the ever-expanding food blogosphere, and I am truly honored to have been singled out. If you'd like to cast a vote, the poles will be open at Wellfed through midnight EST on Tuesday, January 9th.
The real matter at hand, though, is that my yearly wrap-up - you know, the one in which I remind you what was better than average around here over the past twelve months - is past due! So, with all due haste, and in slightly different fashion from last year, I hereby give you the "best of the best" from the Traveler's Lunchbox in 2006.
Best unlikely use of an ingredient: Creamy avocado milkshakes. No, it is not guacamole in a glass.
Best idea that came to me in the shower: The Foodblogger's Guide to the Globe, a.k.a. 1650 things to eat before you die. Considering the enthusiasm this sparked (not to mention media attention), it seems I should take showers more often (just kidding!).
Best waste of calories: This is hard. I'll have to go with bonet. Or maybe baklava. Though that lemon-almond torta is awfully good too. And did I mention Toll House pie? You'll just have to make them all.
Best too-delicious-to-be-good-for-you recipe find: Gypsy pot. It's vegetable soup, but not as you know it.
Best expenditure of a large amount of money: My hard-won (literally!) Kitchenaid mixer. My tactics may have been slightly unscrupulous, but to quote myself, "it is better to be the owner of a Kitchenaid than a nice person."
Best expenditure of a small amount of money: My first bánh mì. Who knew that $2.25 could buy a life-changing experience?
Best motivation for writing this blog: You. Each and every comment you leave inspires, educates, challenges and moves me. This website wouldn't even be half of what it is without you, your enthusiasm and your good taste! Thank you, dear readers, friends and fellow bloggers, for everything. May this year be the most prosperous, most joyful and of course, most delicious one yet!