Each year, I share with my readers the five best meals I have eaten that year. This is always very hard to do, as I get to enjoy many of the finest restaurants in the world. In this year alone I was able to sample creations by talented chefs in Atlanta, Barcelona, Dallas, Florence, Roatan, Highlands, Knoxville, Madrid, Milan, Nashville, New York City, Quebec City, Rio de Janeiro, Rapid City, Santa Fe, Segovia, St Mary’s, St Simons and Toledo. So here are my top 5 eats for 2012:

5. Ariana Afghan Restaurant, Atlanta – This was my first time eating at an Afghan restaurant (I have tried home cooked Afghan food before) and it was simply amazing! Afghan cuisine stands like its geographic location, somewhere between India and Persia. While the Buranee Kadu and Kebab Kadai are heavenly, the Qabeli Palaw was my personal favorite. Moreover, meeting Chef Najib Nawabi and hearing his inspirational story about starting a number of restaurants off his wheelchair, made the dinner even more memorable.

4. La Cafe de la Terrasse at the Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, Canada. Picture an 18th century French castle overlooking the St Lawrence River and Dufferin Terrace, a charming and cozy dining room, and a buffet of the freshest seafood in Canada. Now that is dining like a princess! Some of the items on my plate were oysters on the shell, fresh shrimp salad, tender smoked salmon, flaky coconut shrimp, seafood terrain, steamed whole salmon and a steamed whole lobster on the side.

3. La Choza in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Here I discovered an entirely new cuisine that I was totally unfamiliar with. Living in US, I knew very little about New Mexican food, and fell in love with it on my very first try. With my new friend and local guide, Steve, in a casual Mexico atmosphere, I had the best enchiladas of my life! Now, these were different than your traditional Mexican ones. Stacked tortillas, stuffed with shredded spicy chicken and Christmas chili (red and green sauces made with local peppers), topped with a fried egg, and a side of calabacitas, beans, rice and salad.

2. La Bodega in Barcelona, Spain. My friends Tina and Alex took me to their favorite restaurant in Barcelona, where they had their first date, got engaged and still frequent with their baby boy. The food was also exceptionally good! It was my first night in Spain and my friends educated me about Catalonian dishes and dining etiquettes (see how Alex drinks wine from a decanter). The most unique aspect of La Bodega was that the servers would bring out the plated specials to display and would entice the diners with the finished versions. Moreover, the servers had a very friendly, almost entertaining attitude, creating an atmosphere of a dinner theatre.

1. La Cantinetta in Florence, Italy. Having a glass of wine and a plate of the most amazing homemade melt in your mouth mushroom ravioli by myself in a cozy little bistro in the historic district of Florence still brings a smile to my face every time I think about it. There were no frills to La Cantinetta, not a special occasion or any great company, just quiet reflective time with my pasta and myself in this charming little city. There is something magical about fresh pasta and you won’t know it until you have tried it for yourself! Here are some of my other restaurant recommendations in Florence.

Not a meal, but deserves a special mention as the most memorable dessert I had in 2012. It was a unique combination of freshly baked warm 10-inch long churros served with a bowl of melted dark hot chocolate. My friend Gina took me to a place called San Gines in Sol area of Madrid, Spain that serves only “churros and chocolate.” It is sinful at just under a 1000 calories per serving but oh so very worth it!

After giving it a lot of thought and writing this list, I realized that it wasn’t only the food that made the meal memorable. The company and the place were two other important factors that enhanced my overall experience. Great service and new dishes also played some part in making memories.

If you have a memorable meal of 2012 that you would like to share, please leave your comment below.

See five most memorable meals of 2011