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This is my last email of 2016, and GOD does it feel good to say that. As you know, this year has been an interminable tire fire, but we won’t dwell on that right now. We at R&K plan on getting out into the world in 2017; we are ready to meet knew people, eat unfamiliar flavors, get stranded at bus stops, find new and creative ways to imbibe, and generally get away from our familiar environs. So goodbye and good riddance, 2016: let’s get out of here.
 
Personally, I’m headed to Iceland in February because I hate having all of my extremities. As you may have read (and read and read) Iceland is experiencing something of a tourist boom right now, and I’m ready for some new Icelandic cuisine and aurora borealis watching. If you’re headed that way, a friend passed along this helpful site tracking Iceland’s often treacherous roadways. He also tipped me off to an unstaffed, hot-spring pool called Seljavallalaug that apparently is quite nice. I’m not including a map to it because I want to get there before you, but I know you can find it.

R&K co-founder Nathan is headed to Asturias in August to, as he says, “tuck all care away in some verdant hillside while solving the real intractable problems: how does one pour cider from a meter above the glass without spilling? Answer me that, and I can heal the world.” I say two cheers for the optimist who is making plans for that deep into 2017. If we collectively make it through March, I owe a friend $50. But we shall strive to share in this forward-thinking attitude! R&K has a whole guide to the lovely Asturias region of Spain written by none other than our friend Chef José Andrés. (Did you know Andrés is locked in a legal battle with the U.S. president-elect? He’s fighting the good fight AND he can provide a comprehensive guide to Spanish seafood, so if you’re not swooning yet GTFO.) 

Our business development associate Shivani is heading to Hawaii, home of the mighty poi. “Since I can’t leave the United States for a bit due to my immigration woes, I wanted to go somewhere far from the east coast so it might feel like I’m leaving the country,” she says. “Immigration woes” is a very common phrase around R&K HQ these days, but I’ve been watching my colleagues navigate a difficult political climate and staggering amounts of international bureaucracy with wit and grace, which, you know, isn’t as great as “immigration woes” calming down but it’s something.

Alexa—senior producer and most likely person to be calling into a meeting from the back of a truck headed into Azerbaijan—lives … I don’t know where? I have at different times assumed she held a passport to no fewer than five countries. Sometimes I try to parse her location by seeing how long it takes her to respond to an email, like a dumb Gmail Doppler system. Anyway, in addition to working from our Barcelona office with R&K cofounder Matt (who recently wrote the book on eating in Spain, have we mentioned that lately?) Alexa is heading to Belgrade to visit a South African cousin who left behind her vet practice in Cape Town to live her Serbian dream. What? Do you see how this gets confusing?

Since it happened in 2016, this is sort of cheating (on rules I myself established nigh 45 minutes ago, I guess I did learn something from 2016) but Matt just got back from a whirlwind book tour across Japan, where he ate everything. I highly recommend checking out his journey on Instagram.

And now, for a completely random smattering of stuff I liked in 2016, plus some things pulled from an infrequently used Slack channel and a few recommendations that have been sitting in my inbox for months. That’s what we in the biz call “curating.”

Did you read this sprawling piece on Nestlé’s noodle debacle in India? I’ve long been obsessed by Big Noodle and was extremely jealous/impressed when this came out. I’m biased, but former R&Ker Mitch Moxley’s look at a billionaire’s disastrous attempt to make the Chinese Avatar is fantastic. And both this article and this one about rich Chinese businessmen and their pet projects are also very good. I did not realize this was a genre until right now. Maybe you didn’t have time to read the issue-length exploration of the crises shaping the Middle East during the last decade. This article on Nazi drug use still blows my mind. Why post-Apocalyptic sci-fi has been slow to catch on in China. Remember the story of the real-life (I repeat, NOT the TV version) Russian spies who pretended to be Americans and then their kids were shipped back to Russia? I haven’t read this article about San Salvador’s upstart mayor yet, but I’m excited to do so over the holidays. Check out the Nigerian families opening their homes to those displaced by Boko Haram. And if you haven’t already, explore our Anthony Bourdain curated Dispatched series of #longreads. I’d start with this fascinating story about angry mobs killing dog thieves

A couple more recent ones (REALLY taking my own parameters loosely this week): The fantastic tale of a man who saved dozens of Syrian refugees. Should we just give people money? Finland thinks so. Dumplings, ranked. Christmas beer, explained. Irish cream, made. And finally, lives, lived—including this story of a great one we lost this year. 

That’s it for 2016! I’m taking next week off to shake off this trash year with cookies and eggnog. See you in January for more of the best food, politics and travel from around the web. In the meantime, just tweet any old thing @caraparks and track all of our travels in the new year on Twitter and Instagram. Happy holidays!