travel: fairytale…

~ Five years ago today, I walked out of the law firm and into the unknown. What began as a shapeless but exciting restart on life quickly formed into an unexpectedly self-guided and fulfilling journey flooded with amazing people, places, lessons, and adventures.  Year after year, life has exceeded my wildest expectations. While I’ve enjoyed getting lost in the busyness of my new […]



Five years ago today, I walked out of the law firm and into the unknown.

What began as a shapeless but exciting restart on life quickly formed into an unexpectedly self-guided and fulfilling journey flooded with amazing people, places, lessons, and adventures.  Year after year, life has exceeded my wildest expectations.

While I’ve enjoyed getting lost in the busyness of my new life as a photographer and writer, I’m incredibly saddened that it has left me less and less time to be a blogger.  If you’ve been a regular reader in the past, then you’ve been reading with less regularity lately. And I’m sorry for it.  So, before allowing myself to be swept away into the next calendar, I am putting on the brakes, as I have done for the past four years, to regroup, reflect, and record.

Of course, this post is far from being a thorough review of 2015 (although, if you manage to finish reading this post, you might think I gave you one).  The advantages of immediacy have long expired, and so a detailed accounting is not possible at this late hour.  Rather, it is my chance to recite, even if with broad strokes, the moments, places, and faces that have touched me recently.  I want to remember them, and share them, because they have been an important part of my life.

But, of course, more than just a journal entry, this, here, also inaugurates a series of year-end posts that, together, offer a comprehensive look at the very best of what and where I’ve been eating in the preceding twelve months.  In what has become an anticipated tradition on this blog, which I started 11 years ago, and which attracts more eyeballs than all of the other posts in the preceding year combined, the three posts that follow this one will enumerate my favorite dishes, desserts, and restaurant meals of 2015.

But before I do that, let me first tell you about my year, and, as I have done in the past, list for you all the restaurants I visited.


Mixed Lighting


In 2011, I marveled at how an exciting year of unexpected opportunities all fit into a suitcase.  In 2012, I continued exploring and pushing the boundaries of my personal frontiers, both foreign and domestic.

Finding myself in uncharted territory, I spent 2013 trying to give definition to my rapidly blurring roles as a writer, photographer, and blogger.  And, after having found some resolve therein, I embraced them by leapfrogging through 2014, traversing the globe with unprecedented enthusiasm.

2015 was a fairytale, full of story and wonder.

I slept in castles and medieval abbeys.  I searched for the ghosts of queens and villains.  I hunted on a Danish island and ate the freshly killed meat by candlelight among its forests, which echoed with the fables of their native son Hans Christian Anderson.  I saw the sun rise near the noon hour, breaking faintly over the Swedish snowscape, and watched it drop into the Pacific Ocean from high atop a cliffside trail in Big Sur.  I heard Hamlet whisper in a Renaissance fortress, and marveled at the eery twinkle of the northern lights.

And here at home, where rarely anything exciting happens, a Cinderella story unfolded as the Royals reclaimed their crown after thirty years.  Nearly a million people lined the streets of downtown Kansas City to welcome them back. And it was awesome.

All of these adventures helped me set a new mileage record in 2015.  Work and pleasure took me through a dozen U.S. states and nine countries on three continents.  I spent far more time away than I did at home, especially the second half of the year, which was particularly busy.  Between September and Christmas, I was only home for 23 days, most of which were spent unpacking, opening mail, doing laundry, and packing again.

But, unlike previous years, most of my travel in 2015 was concentrated in a few places to which I returned repeatedly.  Although I always enjoy discovering new and exciting parts of our world (and I did a little of that too), 2015 allowed me to stitch myself tighter to a few of the places I’ve come to love most, making them feel a little more like home instead of destinations.  I expressed this desire in an earlier blog post about Copenhagen, to which I traveled thrice.


Take a swim.


Continuing my collaboration with chef Christopher Haatuft on the Friends of Lysverket series (which we started in 2014), I shuttled back and forth to Bergen, Norway five times.  In January, we brought Brooks Headley, then pastry chef of Del Posto, to learn traditional methods of Norwegian baking.  Then, in March, chef Thorsten Schmidt, along with interior designer Kim Dolva of the København Mobelsnedkeri flew up from Denmark to join us for the fourth Friends of Lysverket dinner.

In June, Paul Qui, chef of Qui in Austin, Texas, became the fifth guest chef in the series, followed by Esben Holmboe Bang of restaurant Maaemo in Oslo, Norway. That dinner in September was paired with wines by the erudite and articulate winemaker Abe Schoener, who flew in from the U.S. with bottles of his juice, mostly under The Scholium Project label.

Lastly, in October, I was thrilled to welcome my longtime and hometown friends, as well as co-authors Colby and Megan Garrelts, chefs of Bluestem and Rye in Kansas City, to Lysverket.  It was their first trip to Europe. We went SCUBA diving for shellfish in the crisp, clear waters of the North Sea with expert diver Knut Magnus Persson (with whom I had gone diving earlier in the year).  We drove deep into the fjords, where we found breathtaking vistas and still waters.  And we went to the Bergen farmers’ market, for a taste of reindeer and svele, Norwegian pancakes served with ruby-red jams and sour cream.

In exchange, the Garreltses shared with the Norwegians a taste of our Midwestern flavors: a dinner of fried chicken, smoked ribs with homemade barbecue sauce, and all the fixings, followed by enormous Dutch apple pies mounded with streusel.  While I enjoyed seeing the reaction of my Norwegian friends to this American fare, perhaps, more poignant for me was the nostalgia it triggered in Haatuft’s mother, who attended this dinner.  Originally from Tennessee, she had lived four decades in Norway as an ex-patriot.  As if privy to the thoughts already swirling in my head, Mrs. Haatuft reminded me that few things can replace a sense of familiarity, or, more precisely, home.

Like all of the dinners before it, this last dinner represented the best of what the Friends of Lysverket series hopes to accomplish.  More than just a cultural or culinary exchange, these dinners, as the name of the series suggests, are about good people meeting other good people.  I look forward to continuing this truly fulfilling project in 2016.



All of these trips to Norway made it easy for me to hop around Europe.

After our last Friends of Lysverket dinner in October, for example, the Garreltses and I left Bergen for France.

Heading south out of Paris toward the Loire, we stopped for a sunset sigh at the stunning Château Chambord before dog-legging west toward Fontevraud, l’Abbaye Royale, a medieval abbey that has now been transformed into a beautiful hotel within a walled compound.  Not only was this the last residence and known resting place of Eleanor of Aquitaine – she the queen of both France and England, and mother to three kings of England and the rulers of Brittany, Poitiers, Saxony, and Sicily (among others) – but this is also where Thibault Ruggeri cooks.  I saw him win the Bocuse d’Or in Lyon in 2013.  Unfortunately, neither were to be found at Fontevraud that night.  Although I found Eleanor of Aquitaine’s effigy in the chapel, next to an effigy of one of her sons, Richard the Lionhearted, I discovered that her tomb was raided during the French Revolution.  The whereabouts of her remains are currently unknown.  As for Ruggeri, it was his night off. The hotel’s fine dining restaurant was closed, but the property’s more casual eatery was kind enough to stay open an extra half hour for us latecomers.

After dinner, we explored the abbey’s hauntingly quiet cloister under a canopy of stars as wolves howled in the moonlight afar.


Early winter.


Turning south again, we dipped down to the Auvergne, where the wooded hills blazed with autumnal glory.

We arrived at Michel Bras early enough on that crisp, sunny afternoon to explore the grounds a little, before suiting up for gargouille, aligot, and that famous coulant with the runny, chocolate core.  To our delight and surprise, we awoke the next morning to a soft snow, the first of the season. Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it better.

And then back to Paris.

Since it was the Garreltses first time in the city, we saw Degas, the Eiffel, and Napoleon under a dome.  We traced generations of Louises through the marble halls of Versailles, and walked through its gardens while the symphony played and the fountains sprayed.

We ate at bistros and brasseries, and stopped for croissants and macarons and ice cream in between.  And we toasted a decade of friendship while waiters in tuxedos shaved white truffles and carved chicken en vesssie.  I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.


Dinner with a view.


In January, Haatuft and his wife Annette joined me on a pilgrimage to Fäviken Magasinet in the desolate, northern expanse of Sweden.

In March, with Norwegian Airlines on strike, the three of us boarded a train in Bergen bound for Oslo, where we celebrated Haatuft’s birthday at Maaemo.

In June, I took a short detour to Helsinki, Finland.  A decade prior, I had been on the country’s west coast, in its ancient capital of Turku.  But Helsinki was new to me.  I wrote about it here.

And in September, I went to Zurich to visit my dear college friend, Solveig.  I mostly stayed in the city, spending as many afternoons as I could on the sidewalk at the famous confisserie Sprüngli admiring the tidiness of the Swiss strolling along the Bahnhofstrasse. However, I did manage to escape one night to Vitznau with a friend for a little unofficial reconnaissance.  Being within such close proximity of Nenad Mlinarevic, chef of restaurant Focus at the Park Hotel Vitznau, who was to cook later in the year at the Twelve Days of Christmas, I couldn’t resist the opportunity for a little preview.  I’m glad I went. Having Champagne and canapés on the shores of Lake Lucerne, with the Alps rising in the near distance, was among the most picturesque moments of my year.



Solveig had also been begging me to go to Iceland with her for years.  So I finally did.

Her family owns a gorgeous home in Reykjavík, where we spent a week, using it as base camp for day trips afield.

One day, we drove around the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, stopping to climb the giant rock in Stykkishólmur harbor and have lunch at Narfeyrarstofa. We continued around the landmass to Hellnar, where we paused to have some coffee and pastries at Fjöruhúsið, situated at the mouth of a long hiking trail along the rugged coast.

In Reykjavík, Solveig and I settled into a lazy routine of long mornings at Reykjavík Roasters, or Mokka Kaffí, or Tíu Dropar over coffee and waffles, or coffee and croissants, or just coffee.  While third wave coffee is just now trickling into Iceland, most of what I found brewing was still super old-school: dark, rich, roasty, and toasty.  I loved it.





Heading south along Iceland’s famous Ring Route, Solveig and I went chasing rainbows and waterfalls until we reached the black, volcanic beaches of Vík.  And then to her family’s cabin in the interior, set on tens of thousands of acres of their private land that stretched to the horizon in all directions.  It was breathtaking.

Surrounded by fields and streams, mountains and glaciers, we idled there a while, venturing out into the harsh landscape at the mercy of the weather, which vacillated between happy and angry.  When it was bad, we stayed inside and read, tied flies, and watched the wind scrape across the valley with horrifying speed.  When the weather behaved, we’d go hiking, or put on our waders and fly fish.  The network of streams that runs through their land team with giant salmon and trout.




One day, I drove, alone, inland towards Landmannalauger.  Crawling over the rough, Icelandic terrain, I followed a road that was barely marked.  At multiple points, I had to raise my utility vehicle to ford streams and small rivers that crossed my path. For six hours – three hours in, and three hours out – I had no cellular service. And rarely did I see any sign of human life. No telephone poles. No fences. No structures. Not even road signs or markers, or even the tinniest bit of stray litter.

The vastness of it all was nearly incomprehensible.  And the kind of uninterrupted silence it brought was both quieting and disquieting.  The only other place in the world where I’ve experienced that level of extreme aloneness was Patagonia.

I encountered barely a half dozen vehicles all day. And when I did, they were either gorgeous, vintage Land Rovers full of yuppies with couture shades and Leicas, or strange vehicular creatures rigged together with a lot of imagination, and probably a lot of weed too, full of hippies looking for a new campsite.  Given the dramatic backdrop, and the caricatures I passed in the wilderness that day, my journey seemed a schizophrenic dream in which I passed between scenes of a Ralph Lauren commercial and a post-apocalyptic movie.  It was so surreal that, even now, I wonder if any of it actually happened.*


Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Park


Neither my parents nor I had been to Taiwan in 28 years.  So, I cashed in some miles and took them back.

My parents barely recognized the modern, sprawling metropolis where they once grew up.  Everything seemed shinier and bigger.  But, as best we could, we tried to piece together their memories and revisit the places and flavors for which they had longed abroad.

Besides of all of the delicious food we ate, one of the highlights for me was a visit to the National Palace Museum.  I vaguely remember it from my childhood trips.  Built into the side of a mountain, its treasures – most of which were smuggled out of mainland China by the Kuomingtang government during the Communist takeover – are reputedly so vast that the entire museum could change its exhibits every three months for several decades without exhausting its holdings.  Unforgettable to me were the centuries I saw unfurl across scrolls that stretched for yards and yards, each viewed by emperors and poets through the ages, who added to these paintings and writings their own comments, praises, signatures and stamps as evidence.  To someone who was born and raised in Western society, and who came to appreciate art through a Western lens, the thought of a work of art being open to such direct commentary was, at first shocking. It amounted to high-profile graffiti. But, standing before such history, having my father translate these ancient writings, revealed a lively and learned conversation among the greatest minds and might of multiple generations.  I cried.

Also, I was lucky to catch a special exhibition of paintings by Lang Shining (郎世寧).  Born Giuseppe Castiglione, this Italian Jesuit became court painter to Emperor Qianglong and brought a markedly European sensibility to Chinese imperial art. Of his works on display, I most admired his paintings of horses, many of which were energetic and dynamic.  He is perhaps most celebrated for his epic scroll painting of “One Hundred Horses.”  That massive work of art – measuring over 26 feet long – was shown with its corresponding, preliminary sketch, which Castiglione had used to gain the emperor’s approval for the official commission.**  I am, admittedly, partial to this painting, not only because I was born in the year of the horse and have an affinity to them, but because the specific character used for “horse” in its title (the second character: 百駿圖), is my namesake – the second character of my first name in Chinese.



I’ve said it on this blog before, and I’ll say it again: I fell in love with Copenhagen.  If I could move there, I would.

I visited this Danish capital three times in 2015: once in March, once in June, and again in September.  Each time, I forced myself to discover new places, new restaurants, and new people, while making sure to return to those that I loved most.

At a particularly memorable dinner at Kong Hans Kælder in March, I met the restaurant’s new head chef Mark Lundgaard Nielsen.  In the months and visits that followed, he became a good friend and somewhat of a local guide and host for me, introducing me to Danish culture.

My interest in the past took me back to Denmark in June, when I went in search of a rogue Scotsman from the pages of Renaissance history.  Although I wrote about that portion of the trip here on my blog, I never got around to recording what happened thereafter.

Lundgaard Nielsen took me west, out of Copenhagen, to the island of Fyn, where we had a traditional Danish lunch at Sortebro Kro, and spent the night at the beautifully preserved Falsled Kro, a 16th century inn, tiled from head to toe in a rainbow of colors.  It’s unspeakably gorgeous.  The next day, we pitched a tent and set up camp on the grounds of a medieval hunting lodge and spent the next day stalking.  Successful, Lundgaard Nielsen dressed the deer he shot, and cooked us a five course dinner in the woods. Replete with Zalto stemware and china, the dinner included venison tartare, fresh from the animal, and rødgrød med flød, a nearly unpronounceable, traditional Danish porridge of strawberries, rhubarb, and cream, which he taught me to make.  I count that dinner among the most special meals I’ve ever had.


After the hunt.


During their annual, restaurant closure in August, Lundgaard Nielsen and his sous chef Andreas Bagh came to Kansas City.  While I appreciated their long-distance effort to visit me in my hometown (I really did), after three, unbearably humid summer days in the Midwestern heat, we decamped to San Francisco for a quick tour of the Bay Area, which took us as far north as Napa and as far south as Carmel.  That was a fun trip.

A few weeks later, I returned to Denmark.

On this last trip, Lundgaard Nielsen took me back to Fyn. We revisited chef Per Hallundbæk at the thatched Falsled Kro, spending another night in its beautifully tiled rooms.  And then on to Nakkebølle Gods, another medieval hunting lodge.  This one was owned by Lundgaard Nielsen’s friends, the Stevnhoveds.  The couple was hosting a traditional, Danish duck hunting party on their sprawling acreage, and were kind enough to extend me an invitation.  For two hours, twenty very experienced hunters downed over six-hundred birds, all of which were allotted to butchers and restaurants (unlike in the U.S., restaurants in Denmark are allowed to serve wild game).  Spending the night in that moated compound (I’ve never seen so many stars at night), Lundgaard Nielsen and I left the next morning for stag hunting in Jutland – the mainland of Denmark – before closing out our roadtrip with a traditional, Danish flæskesteg (a fat back pork roast with an especially thick rind of crackling) dinner at his parents’ house.

There is so much more that I need to tell you about Copenhagen and my travels through the Danish countryside.  But I’ll save it all for a later post.  I must move on.


Jewel Box


In a year-end summary, Delta Airlines, to which I am fiercely loyal (not only because they value my loyalty, but because I truly believe they are the best American carrier), notified me that my most visited airport in 2015 was SFO (San Francisco International).  While this is technically incorrect, I did travel to San Francisco quite a bit, mostly to photograph, but to eat as well.***  

I also went to New York City thrice.  There would have been a fourth visit, except the James Beard Foundation decided to move its annual awards ceremony to Chicago this year.  So, instead of New York in May, Chicago in May it was.  And what a frightful debut for the organization in the Windy City it turned out to be.  If the James Beard Foundation doesn’t find a way of making its award ceremony, and some of its attendant functions, a more pleasant experience, then I’m afraid there shall soon be no more Chicago in May for me.



I slipped into New York at the bottom of September to catch the tail end of a special John Singer Sargent exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before it closed.  Focused on his portraits of family and friends, this exhibition was an incredible meeting of history, biography, and beauty.  For hours, I lost myself in the magnificent folds and pleats of his brilliant brushstrokes.

On a prior trip to the East Coast, in which New York served as the trailhead to a much longer road trip through New England, I also got to see a few of Sargent’s paintings, including his famous portrait of “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit,” in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.  That trip, a photo assignment for FIAT USA, which was published in a four-part series entitled “Wanderlust,” took me through Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, where I got to catch up with Aki Kamozawa and Alex Talbot of Ideas in Food.  I’ve always slept incredibly well when I’ve stayed with them.  Maybe it’s because they feed me so well.  Moving on from their delicious patch of paradise, I ended my trip in Maine, which had been one of only two U.S. states I had not visited.

Now, only Alaska remains.  Recommendations (for restaurants or otherwise) are welcomed.


Dinner on the beach.


I’ve never been one to compromise easily, especially when it comes to the type and quality of work I want to produce, and especially the integrity of the people with whom I want to work.  So in 2015, I was not only blessed with a wide range of choices, but the luxury of choosing to work with only the very best. The level of talent, the intensity of ambition, the amount of knowledge, and the measured humility with which this has surrounded me has been an endless source of joy and inspiration.

While meeting new people, making new friends, and forging new partnerships made 2015 exciting, strengthening existing relationships made the year heartwarming.  So I can’t end this year-end review without mentioning a few of the people who have, over the past few years, not only created annual highlights on my calendar, but who have also added a sense of tradition to my life.  These are also people who set their bars well beyond reach, yet exceed expectations. They care about quality and they produce quality.  And they do it all with the utmost professionalism and care.  And so I am happy to be a part of what they do.


Charles Kelley


In particular, I want to mention three events and the people who make them happen.

Justin Cogley moved his Rediscovering Coastal Cuisine event from March to early November.  So, I returned to the l’Auberge Carmel in Carmel-By-The-Sea, California for a third year to photograph this intimate event that gathers chefs from other parts of the world to learn about the unique and dynamic waters and ecosystems off the coast of the Monterey Bay Peninsula.  This year, he welcomed Matt Orlando, Jeremiah Stone, Benjamin Sukle, Fabian von Hauske, and Justin Yu.

Courtney Hampson dished up the ninth helping of Music To Your Mouth at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff in the hauntingly beautiful Lowcountry of South Carolina.  This was my fifth year attending this event, and my fourth as the photographer.  I’ve always loved the thoughtfulness with which this event thinks and talks about the South.  This year, Hampson dug in deeper with her commitment to not only put on a good show, with good food, good people, and good music, but also to educate. In partnership with John T. Edge and Melissa Hall at The Southern Foodways Alliance, they created “salons,” in which speakers – who ranged from botanists to distillers to chefs – hosted small-group seminars that dove a little deeper into their subjects of expertise.  I hope to write more about this important event.

And, of course, there is the Twelve Days of Christmas, to which I have devoted a dozen posts each year for the last four.  You’ll find links to all of them at the end of this year’s report.  Thank you, Christopher Kostow, Nathaniel Dorn, and your team at The Restaurant at Meadowood for giving my fairytale year its happy ending.


Zalto stereo.


I wonder, breathless, at the end of every year, how the next one could possibly top it.  Only the good God above knows.  And until I discover what more may come, I am thankful for what I have and have had, and remind myself that I’ve deserved none of it.

But, I am excited already at the prospects that 2016 holds.  On top of continuing my work with people like Christopher Haatuft and the Friends of Lysverket series (I’m packing for our eighth event as I type), and my friends Adam Goldberg, Elyssa Goldberg, and Daniela Velasco on their incredible magazine, “Drift,” I have a couple of exciting new projects and partnerships glimmering on the horizon.  I can’t wait to tell you about them.

But, I’ve made a lot of promises in this post to write about a lot of things, including my annual “best of” posts.  So, I better get to them first.

As promised way, way above, below you’ll find a full accounting of all of the restaurants I visited in 2015.  The restaurants are listed alphabetically by month.  You will find photo albums of almost all of these meals on my Flickr account.

Babbo (New York, New York)
Blue Koi (Kansas City, Missouri)
Bo Ling’s (Kansas City, Missouri)
Carbone (New York, New York)
Casa Mono (New York, New York)
Cosme (New York, New York)
Del Posto (New York, New York)
Dirty French (New York, New York)
Estella (New York, New York)
Fäviken Magasinet (Järpen, Sweden)
Fritz’s (Kansas City, Missouri)
Gramercy Tavern (New York, New York) (once, twice)
Happy Gillis Café & Hangout (Kansas City, Missouri)
Il Lazzarone (St. Joseph, Missouri)
Ivan Ramen (New York, New York)
James Beard House, The (New York, New York)
Jean-Georges (New York, New York)
Lysverket (Bergen, Norway)
Momofuku Ko (New York New York)
NoMad Bar (New York, New York)
Reynard (New York, New York)
Spotted Pig, The (New York, New York)
Winstead’s (Kansas City, Missouri)

801 Fish (Leawood, Kansas)
A16 (San Francisco, California)
American Restaurant, The (Kansas City, Missouri) (once, twice)
Benu (San Francisco, San Francisco)
Boulette’s Larder (San Francisco, California)
Brenda’s Meat & Three (San Francisco, California)
Johnny Jo’s Pizza (Kansas City, Missouri)
Happy Gillis Café & Hangout (Kansas City, Missouri)
Les Clos (San Francisco, California)
Mourad (San Francisco, California)
Pâtisserie 46 (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Restaurant at Meadowood, The (St. Helena, California)
Saison (San Francisco, California) (once, twice)
Taqueria Silva (Kansas City, Missouri)
Tay Ho (Sacramento, California)
Tilia (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Trou Normand (San Francisco, California)

AOC (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Bartavelle (Berkeley, California)
Bien Bar (Bergen, Norway)
Bluestem (Kansas City, Missouri)
Boulevard Tavern (Kansas City, Missouri)
Bror (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Café Don Pippo (Bergen, Norway)
Café Lillebror (Copenhagen, Denmark)
El Molino Central (Hot Boyes Springs, California)
Happy Gillis Café & Hangout (Kansas City, Missouri) (once, twice)
Genessee Royale (Kansas City, Missouri)
Great China (Berkeley, California)
Grød (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Il Lazzarone (Kansas City, Missouri)
Joe’s Kansas City (Kansas City, Kansas)
Kong Hans Kælder (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Lockeford Meat Service (Lockeford, California)
Lysverket (Bergen, Norway) (once, twice)
Maaemo (Oslo, Norway)
Marg og Bein (Bergen, Norway)
Michael David (Lodi, California)
Port Fonda (Kansas City, Missouri)
Ramen Shop, The (Oakland, California)
Rudy’s Tenampa Taqueria
Rye (Leawood, Kansas)
Tomales Bay Oyster Co. (Marshall, California)
Town Topic (Kansas City, Missouri)
Uformel (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Vincent (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Yesterday Café (Berkeley, California)

American Restaurant, The (Kansas City, Missouri)
Happy Gillis Café & Hangout (Kansas City, Missouri) (once, twice)
Herrera’s Tenderloin Grill (Kansas City, Missouri)
Il Lazzarone (Kansas City, Missouri)
Port Fonda (Kansas City, Missouri) (once, twice)
Rieger Grill & Exchange (Kansas City, Missouri)
Rye (Kansas City, Missouri)
Town Topic (Kansas City, Missouri)

Aberdeen Tap (Chicago, Illinois)
Al Forno (Providence, Rhode Island)
Arcade Bakery (New York, New York)
Beatrix (Chicago, Illinois)
Birch (Providence, Rhode Island)
Black Pearl (Newport, Rhode Island)
Café Don Pippo (Bergen, Norway)
Dove’s Luncheonette (Chicago, Illinois)
Duck Fat (Portland, Maine)
Eventide Oyster Co. (Portland, Maine)
Fat Rice (Chicago, Illinois)
Flour Bakery (Boston, Massachusetts)
Flo’s (Newport, Rhode Island)
Fore Street (Portland, Maine)
Formento’s (Chicago, Illinois)
Frank Pepe’s (New Haven, Connecticut)
Happy Gillis Café & Hangout (Kansas City, Missouri)
Herrera’s Tenderloin Grill (Kansas City, Missouri)
High Five (Chicago, Illinois)
Hiltl (Zurich, Switzerland)
Hugo’s (Portland, Maine)
Hungry Mother (Boston, Massachusetts)
Jupiter Outpost (Chicago, Illinois)
JP Graziano (Chicago, Illinois)
JT Farnhams (Essex, Massachusetts)
Little Goat (Chicago, Illinois) (once, twice)
Lysverket (Bergen, Norway) (once, twice, thrice)
Margie’s Candies (Chicago, Illinois)
Marta (New York, New York)
Matunuck Oyster Bar (Matunuck, Rhode Island)
Mike’s Kitchen (Cranston, Rhode Island)
Momotaro (Chicago, Illinois)
Moody’s Delicatessen (Waltham, Massachusetts)
Nico Osteria (Chicago, Illinois)
North (Providence, Rhode Island)
North Bakery (Providence, Rhode Island)
Oleana (Boston, Massachusetts)
Parachute (Chicago, Illinois)
Reds Eats (Portland, Maine)
Revival (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Sarma (Boston, Massachusetts)
Sepia (Chicago, Illinois)
Sportello (Boston, Massachusetts)
Upland (New York, New York)
West Bridge (Boston, Massachusetts)
White Barn Inn (Kennebunk, Maine)

American Restaurant, The (Kansas City, Missouri) (once, twice)
Atelier September (Copenhagen, Denmark) (once, twice)
Café Lille Bror (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Café Regatta (Helsinki, Finland)
Chef & Sommelier (Helsinki, Finland)
Falsled Kro (Millinge, Denmark)
Gaijin (Helsinki, Finland)
Heirloom (Kansas City, Missouri)
Kong Hans Kælder (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Lumskebugten (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Olo (Helsinki, Finland)
Pony (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Restaurant at Dragsholm Slot, The (Dragsholm, Denmark)
Schønneman (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Shawarma House 1980 (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Søllerød Kro (Søllerød, Denmark)
Sortebro Kro (Odense, Denmark)

Happy Gillis Café & Hangout (Kansas City, Missouri)
Pizzeria Locale (Kansas City, Missouri)

Aubergine (Carmel-By-The-Sea, California)
Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur (Reykjavík, Iceland)
Bouchon (Yountville, California)
Boulette’s Larder (San Francisco, California)
Coo Coo’s Nest (Reykjavík, Iceland)
Cotogna (San Francisco, California)
Dill (Reykjavík, Iceland)
Duarte’s Tavern (Pescadero, California)
Gott’s Roadside (St. Helena, California)
Heirloom (Kansas City, Missouri)
Gate’s Barbecue (Kansas City, Missouri)
Happy Gillis Café & Hangout (Kansas City, Missouri)
In-N-Out (Gilroy, California)
Jane (San Francisco, California)
Joe’s Kansas City (Kansas City, Kansas)
LC’s Bar-B-Q (Kansas City, Missouri)
Liholiho Yacht Club (San Francisco, California)
Lysverket (Bergen, Norway) (once, twice)
Matur og Drykkur (Reykjavík, Iceland) (once, twice)
Mokka (Reykjavík, Iceland) (once, twice)
Narfeyrarstofa (Stykkishólmur, Iceland)
No Name Pizza (Reykjavík, Iceland)
Port Fonda (Kansas City, Missouri)
Quince (San Francisco, California)
Redd Wood (Yountville, California)
Restaurant at Meadowood, The (St. Helena, California)
Reykjavík Roasters (Reykjavík, Iceland) (more than thrice)
Rye (Leawood, Kansas)
Saison (San Francisco, California)
Suðir Vík (Vík, Iceland)
Taqueria Silva (Kansas City, Missouri)
Taste of Formosa (San Francisco, California)
Tíu Dropar (Reykjavík, Iceland) (once, twice)
Yank Sing (San Francisco, California)
Zuni Café (San Francisco, California)

American Restaurant, The (Kansas City, Missouri) (once, twice)
Bæst (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Bruno Pizza (New York, New York)
Café Lillebror (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Casa Mono (New York, New York)
Contra (New York, New York)
El Rey (New York, New York)
Falsled Kro (Millinge, Denmark)
Focus (Vitznau, Switzerland)
Formel B (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Genessee Royale (Kansas City, Missouri)
Gorilla (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Happy Gillis Café & Hangout (Kansas City, Missouri) (once, twice, thrice)
Hija de Sanchez (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Joe’s Kansas City (Kansas City, Kansas) (once, twice)
Kitty’s Café (Kansas City, Missouri)
Kong Hans Kælder (Copenhagen, Denmark)
LC’s Bar-B-Q (Kansas City, Missouri)
Öpfelchammer (Zurich, Switzerland)
Pluto (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Port Fonda (Kansas City, Missouri)
Relæ (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Rye (Leawood, Kansas)
Schønneman (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Sprüngli (Zurich, Switzerland) (once, twice, thrice)
Storchen (Zurich, Switzerland)
Town Topic (Kansas City, Missouri) (once, twice, thrice)
Yuca Taco (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Bien Bar (Bergen, Norway)
Bistrot Paul Bert (Paris, France)
Blé Sucré (Paris, France)
Café de Flore (Paris, France)
Café Don Pippo (Bergen, Norway)
Carette (Paris, France)
Chez l’Ami Jean (Paris, France)
City Star (Taipei, Taiwan)
Columbus Park Ramen (Kansas City, Missouri)
db bistro moderne (New York, New York)
Din Tai Fung (Taipei, Taiwan)
Do It True (Taipei, Taiwan)
Do Jiang Da Wong (Taipei, Taiwan) (more than thrice)
Epicure (Paris, France)
Five Happiness (Taipei, Taiwan)
Fontevraud, l’Abbaye Royale (Fontevraud, France)
Four Seasons, The (New York, New York)
Gabriel Kreuther (New York, New York)
Gran Electrica (New York, New York)
Grand Hotel, The (Taipei, Taiwan)
Kao Chi (Taipei, Taiwan)
Kang Ho Dong Baekjong (New York, New York)
Lao Dian Tou Tainan Yi Mian (Taipei, Taiwan)
Le Verre Volé (Paris, France)
Lysverket (Bergen, Norway) (once, twice)
Ma Bourgogne (Paris, France)
Michel Bras (Laguiole, France)
MUME (Taipei, Taiwan)
Navy (New York, New York)
NoMad (New York, New York)
Qing Zhen Zhong Guo Niu Rou Mian Shi Guan (Taipei, Taiwan)
Sadelles’ (New York, New York)
Saturne (Paris, France)
Volcanic Chicken (Yilan, Taiwan)
Yam’tcha (Paris, France)

1833 (Monterey, California)
Artisan Meat Share (Charleston, South Carolina)
Aubergine (Carmel-By-The-Sea, California) (once, twice)
Big Sur Bakery (Big Sur, California)
Bluestem (Kansas City, Missouri)
Boulette’s Larder (San Francisco, California)
Butcher and Bee (Charleston, South Carolina)
Columbus Park Ramen (Kansas City, Missouri) (once, twice)
Daily, The (Charleston, South Carolina)
FIG (Charleston, South Carolina)
Genessee Royale (Kansas City, Missouri)
Martha Lou’s (Charleston, South Carolina)
Molina (Mill Valley, California)
Saison (San Francisco, California)
Spoon & Stable (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Wild Olive (Johns Island, South Carolina)
Zuni Café (San Francisco, California)

Bouchon (Yountville, California)
Ciccio (Yountville, California)
Cook Tavern (St. Helena, California)
Extra Virgin (Kansas City, Missouri)
Glen Ellen Star (Glen Ellen, California)
Hank Charcuterie (Lawrence, Kansas)
Harvest Table (St. Helena, California)
M H Bread & Butter (San Anselmo, California)
Model Bakery, The (St. Helena, California)
Octavia (San Francisco, California)
Restaurant at Meadowood, The (St. Helena, California)
Restaurant at Meadowood, The (St. Helena, California) (The Twelve Days of Christmas: Humm, Mlinarevic, Puglisi, Vallejo, Skenes, Wilkinson, Floresca & Ryan, McHale, Connaughton, Tanaka, Yu, Kostow)
Saison (San Francisco, California)


* Following the collapse of its economy in 2008, the country has tried to recover by pumping lots of resources into attracting tourists (you might have seen advertisements for shockingly low, round-trip airfare on one of Iceland’s two airlines – Icelandair and WOW air – which requires travelers to stay in Iceland for a few days, thereby ensuring foreign revenue).  While Iceland seems to have done a tremendous job of getting foreigners to Iceland, the country doesn’t seem to have been very successful at preparing for or dealing with the increased traffic.  The infrastructure for tourism is weak, and, in many parts of the country, completely non-existent.  A country of only 325,000, which, until 2008 had enjoyed an isolationist existence, thanks to prohibitively unfriendly exchange rates with most currencies, Iceland has seen more than a million visitors in the past year, according to one statistic I heard.  Unable to regulate and enforce, Iceland is being ravaged by disrespectful tourists.  Trash left behind by hitchhikers and backpackers not only litter Reykjavík, but much of the high-trafficked areas in the rest of the country, especially the Ring Route.  Naturally occurring hot springs, which have always been free and open to public bathers, have become crowded and polluted.  And even private landowners, like my friend Solveig’s family, have had to take extra measures to keep freeloaders from camping, or, in some cases, squatting, on their property.  Although I wish I could write more about this trip, I’ll leave you with this bit of advice: if you’ve been wanting to go to Iceland, I urge you to go now, while the country is still relatively untouched.  I fear for where Iceland may be headed in the next few years and decades.  And, it should go without saying that, if you go, please be respectful of its natural beauty.

** While the painting is a part of the National Palace Museum’s collection, the sketch was on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

*** While I did travel to San Francisco quite a bit, I flew in and out of BGO (Bergen Fleisland Airport) more times in 2015, albeit on Delta’s partner airline, KLM.  Regardless, MCI – Kansas City International – has always been, and will always be my most frequent destination, as it is home.

Photos: Nearly a million fans lined the streets of downtown Kansas City, Missouri to give the Kansas City Royals a World Series victory welcome home; dinner with Mark Lundgaard Nielsen in the woods of Søbo, on the Danish island of Fyn; the still waters of Gudvangen Fjord, Norway; in the cloister at Fontevraud, l’Abbaye Royale under a canopy of stars in Fontevraud, France; a bucolic patch of wild flowers at Fontevraud, l’Abbaye Royale in Fontevraud, France; cows in the morning snow on a hill in Aubrac, Laguiole, France; a giant, bronze bull and bear turn in their age-old rivalry on a field of green before Lake Lucerne at the Park Hotel Vitznau in Vitznau, Switzerland; Solveig on the rocky shores of Hellnar, Iceland; a rainbow appears at the base of a waterfall in Skógafoss, Iceland; all alone somewhere in the wilderness on the way to Landmannalauger, Iceland; the pavilion at the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial in Taipei, Taiwan; beautifully tiled room at Falsled Kro in Millinge, Denmark; Mark Lundgaard Nielsen dressing a roebuck in the woods of Søbo on the island of Fyn, Denmark; hundreds of ducks lined up after the hunt at Nakkebølle Gods on the island of Fyn, Denmark; Jane’s Carousel, now in its glass case post-Sandy, DUMBO, New York, New York; “Dr. Pozzi at Home,” a painting by John Singer Sargent on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, New York; Beavertail State Park, Rhode Island; Justin Cogley hosting a beach dinner for the guest chefs of this year’s Rediscovering Coastal Cuisine event on Carmel Beach, California; Charles Kelley rocking the night away at Music To Your Mouth at the Inn at Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina; Mark Lundgaard Nielsen and me sitting down to dinner in the woods of Søbo, Denmark.

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