Taking a page from Chocolate & Zucchini...
Best Meal(s): A Cantina de Mananan, Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy. Two consecutive nights in June. Impeccable seafood one night; the next, Pansôti al sugo di noci (ravioli with herbs and ricotta with walnut sauce).
Best Feast: Blow-out birthday meal at the River Cafe in West London with seven friends.
Favorite restaurant, London: Tapas Brindisa, Borough Market
Favourite food person: Bill "The Raclette Man" Oglethorpe, affineur at Neal's Yard in Borough market. Creator of the world's best toasted cheese/grilled cheese sandwich, which recipe and ingredients I have shamelessly taken as my own, and giver of raclette.
In the off-season, Bill travels the world ("to replenish his raclette roots," he told me one year), including a trip this year to the United States.
"Oh really?" I said, ever the expat gringo. "Where?"
"Michigan," he said. scraping a molton load of raclette cheese onto new potatoes.
"That's where I'm from! Where?"
"Outside of Detroit," he said, spooning on a load of spicy gherkins. "Ann Arbor. I stayed on this guy's couch, he owns a deli called Zingermans..."
Bringing us to the Best Nascent Food Empire category...
It's not just a deli anymore...Zingerman's has expanded big time with a Roadhouse, Creamery, cookbook and ever-growing mail order business (which sells cheeses from Neal's Yard, see above). The fried chicken I had at the Roadhouse would have met with praise from my relatives in Nashville -- ditto for their ridiculous selection of bourbons.
A few other favorites...
-- Neighborhood pub grub: The Talbot
-- Fast food: Itsu
-- American food in London: Bodean's burnt ends (Monday and Wednesday only)
-- Coffee: Monmouth
-- Butcher: Spotted Pig