travel: regroup and return (2022)…

Just as the world seemed to be galloping away from the pandemic, it was abruptly unhorsed by Omicron. As the new Covid variant – by far, the most infectious yet, we were told – raced around the globe in late 2021 and early 2022, spreading like glitter among preschoolers, I was on my way to […]


Just as the world seemed to be galloping away from the pandemic, it was abruptly unhorsed by Omicron.

As the new Covid variant – by far, the most infectious yet, we were told – raced around the globe in late 2021 and early 2022, spreading like glitter among preschoolers, I was on my way to meet my godchildren in Rome.

The eye-popping infection rate triggered a fresh round of restrictions that made international travel a logistical nightmare. Italy required a negative PCR test within 48 hours, or a negative rapid test within 24 hours of arrival, not departure. So, on January 2, I got up at 03.00 to take a Covid test. With testing facilities in Kansas City closed on new year’s eve as well as on the new year (and who knows how long the labs would take to return results even if they were open), my only option was a proctored, online rapid test the morning of my departure.  

When I checked in for my flights the day before, there were 12 confirmed passengers in my cabin on my flight to Fiumicino International. By the time everyone was boarded 24 hours later, I counted only six of us.  

The strictness of Italy’s Covid regulations, and especially, the fastidiousness with which they were followed were surely evidence of just how deeply the pandemic had affected the country.   

In my experience, what Italians possess in style – plenty to spare – they seem to lack in order and discipline. Choked with bureaucracy and suffering under chaotic leadership – the country has had a new government roughly every year since WWII – Italy is hardly an efficient society.  Non funziona, I joke, should be the country’s motto. The lack of reliability is so pervasive, and so infuriating to me – buses may or may not follow published routes, trains may or may not run at all, businesses may or may not reopen after lunch, despite promises scrawled on notes left in the window – that I can only tolerate visiting once a decade. 

On my last visit to Italy, in the summer of 2011, my friend’s internet service went down. She was told by the service provider that it may take anywhere from a week to three months to resolve. She seemed as unsurprised by this news as the agent seemed unconcerned. There was no shouting, no tearing of hair; just a shrug and a sigh on both ends of the phone.  Witnessing this exchange, I didn’t know which was more bewildering, the collective lack of urgency or the thoroughly unhelpful estimate – anywhere from a week to three months?  

And yet, Italy – where little outside of wine, pasta, and soft-shoulder tailoring is treated seriously, where traffic signs and lines on the road are merely for decoration – was serious about Covid. Medical grade masks were required at all times, indoors and outdoors. And proof of vaccination checkpoints were everywhere, including on public transportation and at the Colosseum – an entirely open-air venue.

While compliance wasn’t difficult, the restrictions – including occupancy limits – made activities for a large group like ours impractical. Thankfully, Rome is one, giant outdoor museum and we spent most of our 36 hours in the city walking it: the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Nevona, and the Pantheon.  It had been nearly 40 years since I last saw these sites. 

We stayed at a gorgeous, old villa near the Quirinale, which has been converted into a beautiful hotel by the family that has owned it for more than a century. It was blessedly spacious and quiet. And the best part was that it offered a small menu of Italian classics, which saved us from having to find food elsewhere.

In the following days, we’d move on to a peaceful corner of Tuscany for a few winks – a grand villa surrounded by the finest vineyards of Bolgheri – before heading up to the snow-bound Engadin valley of Switzerland just in time for my godchildren to return to school; the end of their winter break.

For reasons that would take too long to explain, I took the train for that last leg of the trip – from Cecina, in Tuscany, to St. Moritz.  What would normally be a six-hour drive, took nearly 12 hours on the Italian railway (some of those trains are older than I am). We had four connections, all of which were disrupted by the expected delays of Trenitalia, and exacerbated by pandemic-related worker shortages, and, conveniently, a strike. 

At one point, four successive trains were canceled, and I was delayed for over 2 hours at Colico, a small station on Lake Como within spitting distance of the Swiss Alps. I looked towards the white-capped peaks longingly; I could smell the punctuality from across the border.

Sure enough, once we reached the border town of Chiavenna, the shiny Swiss bus that would shuttle us the rest of the way up the mountain, arrived a minute ahead of schedule, sweet salvation on a cold, dark night.

Normally bustling in the new year, with its world-class slopes and shopping, and in the second half of January, the Snow Polo World Cup – a breathtakingly beautiful tournament of horses on the mile-high, frozen Lake St. Moritz – the Engadin valley was unusually empty. Severe pandemic restrictions had shuttered many restaurants, cafes, and shops, which usually crowd in the high ski season with Milanese magnates, Russian oligarchs, and Chinese billionaires, who flock to this polyglot playground for the ultra-rich. 

Gifted with this unseasonably quiet week, I settled into the routine of Swiss life with locals. And I loved it. In the mornings, we would walk Theo – the youngest of my godchildren – to school in town, and then I’d spend the morning at a nearby cafe. 

I especially enjoyed running errands around the Engadin. I marveled that people in this part of the world conduct their mundane tasks – the car wash, picking up some meat for dinner, or dropping something off at a friend’s place – in such a fairytale, winterland setting. The town of St. Moritz, of course, is glamorous and famous. But I preferred our trips through the snowy hamlets that string along the narrow valley, which I found exceedingly charming. Some are barely 2 miles from each other, and inhabited by only a handful of residents. And yet, as if untouched for centuries – indeed, many of the homes date to the late Middle Ages – each was a self-sufficient community, with a church and a unique personality.  

With few, decent options for dining, we mostly cooked in. There were Netflix nights, and lazy afternoons by the fireplace; me, buried beneath a stack of newspapers.

Being around children – a departure from my normal reality – was also a joy. Theo introduced me to the magical world of Legos (my goodness things have changed since I was a child), and I introduced him to the hip-swiveling world of Rick Astley.  

I was, on this trip, also introduced to skis. I had never been on skis before. And at 43, I was hardly the right age to start a career on the slopes – especially these slopes. But, my friends were convinced I’d make an excellent cross-country skier. Sadly, I proved them very wrong. My attempts at skate skiing were comical – it’s a lot harder than it looks. They reassured me that a couple of days is hardly enough time, especially for someone who had never been on skis.

This brief episode of home life was a wonderful reprieve from the stresses of pandemic travel, to which I would return as soon as I left the Engadin.

On my way back, I spent a night in Zürich, where Covid regulations were strictly enforced. Until then, I hadn’t bothered converting my American proof of vaccination card into an official Swiss Covid pass, because my American one had been universally accepted. But not in Zürich. If I wanted dinner anywhere, I was warned by my hotel concierge, I would need to obtain a certified Swiss Covid pass. This required going to a designated tourism office, and paying a conversion fee of 30 CHF (at the time, the USD and CHF were roughly par). I was issued a fee waiver because I already had a French Pass Sanitaire, which the Swiss converted for free.  

And here, dozens of paragraphs in, I finally have something of culinary interest to report: on the last night of my trip, I had a fantastic dinner at Kronenhalle. It had been 11 years since I last ate at this beloved Zürich institution, and thankfully, nothing had changed. 

I ordered the same thing I had last time – the “Veal Kronenhalle” with rösti. The server brought both the meat and the potatoes to a serving station near me, and spooned the juicy, tender strips of veal, swimming in cream sauce, onto a plate, next to a heap of golden rösti.  She set the sizzle platter with the remaining rösti on a trivet over a candle to keep warm. It was a wonderfully comforting and delicious end to my trip. 

I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d be back for more veal and rösti a few months later. However, that subsequent trip, and the many others I took in 2022 – to the hunting lands of western Denmark, the East Midlands of the United Kingdom, the southern surf of Portugal – I’ll save for later. Although I’ve always been deeply appreciative of my experiences in life, and mindful about reflecting on them often, I haven’t been doing a very good job of recording them in recent years. Distracted by the excitement of work and travel, I’ve punted my thoughts to year-end summaries and round-ups.

I’ll admit, the year-end lists were a great way to memorialize my favorite moments and meals – especially when I was able to record more of my life throughout the year. More importantly, celebrating and championing chefs and restaurants that I believed deserved recognition brought me great joy.

But compiling those lists became increasingly soul-draining. For one thing, it’s a terribly unimaginative way of sharing information, reducing months of travel and experiences into a dozen meals. Worse, it became an extremely repetitive exercise.

Although my circle of eating hasn’t necessarily narrowed, tragically, the frequency with which I encounter truly remarkable cooking has. This isn’t news to those who are regular readers here. As I’ve written before, my disappointment with the direction of the restaurant industry in the past decade drove me to return to the most reliable tables with almost rote fidelity.  As a result, the same, few restaurants appeared year after year among my favorites. And year after year, I began struggling to come up with new ways of telling you just how fantastic these same, few restaurants are. By now, you know them well: l’Ambroisie in Paris; Kong Hans Kælder in Copenhagen; The Barn at Blackberry Farm in eastern Tennessee; Angler in San Francisco; Asador Etxebarri in Basque country… 

As 2022 rolled to a close, I realized, the same cast members would reappear again this year. The thought of repeating what has been well-established here (and elsewhere) finally became unbearable.

This blog started as a personal journal, where I got to memorialize the moments that are most important to me in a narrative format. And the best part is that I got to do it without editors or word count, or, really, even an audience to please. The sum of my experiences this year reminded me that not only can I still do it, but I should.

Given how much I’ve complained about the laziness of lists and rankings, it’s ironic that I would fall victim to my own warnings.  So, departing from my annual tradition of rounding up all the places and plates that highlighted my year, I’ve decided instead to get back to what I loved most about blogging, and why I started writing here 18 years ago.   

Informative storytelling doesn’t preclude me from continuing to champion and celebrate those who make eating a joy for me. But I want to do so in the context of the many incredible experiences with which I’ve been blessed. In the coming weeks and months, I’ll focus on sharing those experiences – about getting to visit the Jæger-leCoultre manufacture in Sentier, for example, or a roadtrip I took with a friend through Bavaria, or fly fishing in Iceland, in addition to my work trips across the U.S., from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. – while also telling you about the many, wonderful places that I ate along the way.

Until I write again, here is a record of all of the restaurants where I ate in 2022. 


Café Klarer (Zuoz, Switzerland) (3x)
Krönenhalle (Zürich, Switzerland)
Limewood (Berkeley, California) (2x)
Villa Spalleti Trivelli (Rome, Italy) (2x)


Bricks Corner (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room (Kansas City, Missouri)
Cotogna (San Francisco, California)
Laurel (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Nomad East (Salt Lake City, Utah)
Pretty Bird (Park City, Utah) (2x)
Pretty Bird (Salt Lake City, Utah) (2x)
Routier (San Francisco, California)
Saison (San Francisco, California)


Apollo Bar (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Esmée (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Fox & Pearl (Kansas City, Missouri)
Gary Danko (San Francisco, California)
Hôtel d’Angleterre (Copenhagen, Denmark) (2x)
Kokkari Estiatorio (San Francisco, California)
Kong Hans Kælder (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Møntergade (Copenhagen, Denmark)
One65 Patisserie (San Francisco, California)
Prolog Coffee (Copenhagen, Denmark) (2x)
Saison (with Maison Sota) (San Francisco, California)
Sanders (Copenhagen, Denmark) (3x)
Silberbauers (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Town & Company (Kansas City, Missouri)
Zuni Cafe (San Francisco, California) (2x)


Barn at Blackberry Farm, The (Walland, Tennessee)
Bo Ling’s (Kansas City, Missouri)
Dogwood at Blackberry Farm (Walland, Tennessee)
Firetower at Blackberry Mountain (Walland, Tennessee) (3x)
Roberto Genève (Geneva, Switzerland)
Three Sisters at Blackberry Mountain (Walland, Tennessee) (5x)


Alpenstieg (Kempen, Germany)
Birdie Coffee (Geneva, Switzerland)
Bistro Lipp (Geneva, Switzerland)
BLU HWY (Kansas City, Missouri)
Cafe am Neu See (Berlin, Germany)
Coselpalais (Dresden, Germany) (2x)
Father Carpenter (Berlin, Germany)
Grill Royal (Berlin, Germany)
Hauptstadtrestaurant (Berlin, Germany)
Krönenhalle (Zürich, Switzerland)
Langastof Alte Säge (Wiggensbach, Germany)
Lutter & Wegner (Berlin, Germany)
Mokka Kafí (Reykjavík, Iceland)
Müller (Hohenschwangau, Germany)
Oswaldz (Dresden, Germany) (2x)
Platzhirsch (Dresden, Germany)
Röststätte (Berlin, Germany)
SMACS (Glashütte, Germany)
Veranda-Bar at Beau Rivage (Neuchâtel, Switzerland)
Villandry (Dresden, Germany)
Weinstube Hensler (Allgau, Germany)


Alma (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Black Walnut Bakery (Minneapolis, Minnesota) (2x)
Cardamom (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Earl’s Premier (Kansas City, Missouri)
Mara (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Spoon & Stable (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Tannin Wine Bar (Kansas City, Missouri)


Addison (San Diego, California)
Formoosa (San Diego, California)
Mara (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Riva at the Four Seasons (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Tocaya (San Diego, California)


Angler (San Francisco, California)
Bread Belly (San Francisco, California)
Courage Bagels (Los Angeles, California)
Earl’s Premier (Kansas City, Missouri)
East Bay Provisions (Berkeley, California) (2x)
Horses on Sunset (Los Angeles, California) (2x)
Libbey’s (Ojai, California) (2x)
Limewood (Berkeley, California) (2x)
Olivella (Ojai, California) (2x)
Palm Court at RH (San Francisco, California)
Pizzeria Sei (Los Angeles, California)
Polo Lounge (Beverly Hills, California)
Rose Bakery (Los Angeles, California)
Rye Plaza (Kansas City, Missouri)
Saffy’s on Fountain (Los Angeles, California)
Saison (with Prateek Sadhu; San Francisco, California)
Town & Company (Kansas City, Missouri)
Yangbang Society (Los Angeles, California)
Yu Chun Chic Naeng Myun (Los Angeles, California)


Acre (Kansas City, Missouri)
Blackberry Brewery (Maryville, Tennessee)
Café G (Boston, Massachusetts)
Contessa (Boston, Massachusetts)
Mara (Minneapolis, Minnesota) (3x)
New American Cafe at the MFA (Boston, Massachusetts)
Osteria Stella (Knoxville, Tennessee)
Potchke Deli (Knoxville, Tennessee)
Three Sisters at Blackberry Mountain (Walland, Tennessee)


Artebianco (Telha, Portugal)
Bifanas do Sr. Afonso (Lisbon, Portugal)
Brat (London, The United Kingdom)
Cal Arrifana (Aljezur, Portugal)
Cavendish Hotel (Baslow, The United Kingdom) (2x)
Gallery Restaurant (Baslow, The United Kingdom)
Garden Room (Baslow, The United Kingdom)
Ikoyi (London, The United Kingdom)
La Fromagerie (London, The United Kingdom)
Lyle’s (London, The United Kingdom
Mara (Minneapolis, Minnesota) (3x)
Pisco (Vila do Bispo, Portugal)
Planque (London, The United Kingdom)
Prado (Lisbon, Portugal)
Regency Café (London, The United Kingdom)
Ritz London (London, The United Kingdom)
Rochelle Canteen (London, The United Kingdom)
Taberna da Rua das Flores (Lisbon, The United Kingdom)
VDB Bistronomie (Lisbon, Portugal)


albi (Washington, D.C.)
Bludorn (Houston, Texas) (2x)
Dabney, The (Washington, D.C.)
Inn at Little Washington, The (Washington, Virginia)
Jont (Washington, D.C.)
Moon Rabbit (Houston, Texas)
National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.)
Navy Blue (Houston, Texas)
Nobie’s (Houston, Texas)
Rosie Cannonball (Houston, Texas)
Seylou Bakery (Washington, D.C.) (2x)
Tatemó (Houston, Texas)
Theodore Rex (Houston, Texas)
Tiny Champions (Houston, Texas)
Un Je Ne Sais Quoi… (Washington, D.C.)
Yellow (Washington, D.C.)


Char Bar (Kansas City, Missouri)
P.S. Steak (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Restaurant at 1900, The (Mission Woods, Kansas)
Tullibee (Minneapolis, Minnesota) (3x)

Categories michelin restaurant travel

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