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Your most extravagant meal/dish ever!

Someone on the Los Angeles board posted a query asking for the most extravagant dishes anyone had ever eaten in Los Angeles. At first I dismissed the thread as "high-falutin," but it ended up getting me thinking about my own extravagant food experiences. My most extravagant food experience was not in LA, so I couldn't post it in that thread, hence, this one.

Several months after my mother passed away in early 1991, when I was 25, my grandmother (my mom's mom) took me on a cruise. She had been invited on the maiden voyage of a new cruise ship on the Royal Viking Line when it was one of the premiere cruise lines. I had given up my job and life in NY to come back to LA to be with mom, and I think the trip was my grandma's way of helping us both cope through a difficult time.

The cruise ship was her world, her modus operandi, and I was by FAR the youngest passenger on the ship (I made fast friends with the next youngest passenger -- the 40-something second wife of a "regular" cruiser). It was the Royal Viking Queen's maiden voyage (leaving from West Palm Beach, through the Panama Canal, and ending up in Los Angeles), and, well, all the rooms were suites, and the meals were NOTHING like you see on Carnival cruise-types today. Fine dining prevailed, but what made it an extraordinary food experience for me was that, although it was not on the menu, you could order Beluga caviar as your appetizer EVERY SINGLE NIGHT. Another woman (my grandmother's age) at our table did it, so I did too! My grandmother, a puritan at heart, was a little embarrased (she told me, just because you CAN, doesn't mean you HAVE TO), but I ignored her temperate advice and went for it. Perhaps the finest caviar I've ever eaten (and ever will eat) in my life, in a volume the likes of which I'll never have again, every night at dinner, for the full three weeks of the cruise. Never got close to being sick of it, that's what a little glutton I was ;-)

I'm now very tempered in my caviar consumption, given the environmental issues, scarcity and price, but every once in a while in my dreams I remember those three weeks. Aside from bonding with my grandma over grieving and living afterward, the things I remember from that cruise are these: being taught to play "21" in the casino by Naki Ataman (the entertainment on that particular cruise), wanting to jump ship in Acapulco (there were young people there, and things were actually happening!), and the caviar!

Here's the link to the LA thread that spawned this post: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

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  1. Cruise ships are all about extravagance. When I was 12 or 13, my grandparents took me on the standard "Eastern route" through the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. I remember one night not being able to decide between lobster and frogs legs. I had never had frogs legs so I ordered both.

    My most extravagant meal, in the true sense of the word, was when my then SO and I had dinner at Pintxos, a Basque restaurant in Manhattan. The restaurant is not an extravagant place, and we weren't celebrating anything in particular. We were however getting used to the idea that both us loved to eat. We ordered two full dinners and then split dessert. We then saw a squid ink paella brought to another table and thought it looked so good we wanted to try it. After our molten chocolate cake, we ordered the black paella for two. Needless to say the waiter thought we were a little crazy.

    1. I can't really answer the exact question because we just don't eat extravagant meals so I will answer it differently. I can remember the first time I ate a meal on my own that I "THOUGHT" was extravagant. It was back in 1980 when I was in high school and working a part time job. Normally when I was out with my friends, we would eat Taco Bell type meals but we wanted something different one night. We wandered into a restaurant that we thought was a Captain D like seafood type place but it wasn't. It had table service and real linens which was a new experience for me. We were woefully out of place and scraped together enough money for two $6 shrimp dinners which seemed like a fortune at the time. It was the first time I had ever done anything like that without any parental supervision and it was absolutely thrilling!

      1. Funny, my experience involves death and beluga as well.

        My oldest sister died in 1992 and I was heartbroken and had difficulty eating for awhile. After her memorial my husband asked me if I was hungry. I was surprised to find that I was.

        So he took me the Pump Room here in Chicago. We had beluga and a Christal. Oysters. I don't really remember the rest but the bill was over $500. What I remember the most was that I realized life was short and felt she would've wanted me to be happy.

        Greatest meal of my life.

        1. We spent Thanksgiving in New Orleans...circa 1983. We had two dinner at Antoine's and one lunch (among other places).

          At Antoine's we ate in a private dining room and had our very own waiter..white gloves and all.

          I ordered the flounder en papillote and the waiter cut it open for me with these silver scissors. The aroma from the pouch was divine...absolutely. I recall feeling like my eyes were going to roll back in my head as I ate the delicately cooked fish.

          1. What a great topic...

            I live in Manhattan, so it's a bit of a surprise to hear myself say that my most extravagant meal was in Petoskey, Michigan! It was extravagant not only for the price - the entree cost $52 - but also because it was a "stack" of sliced filet mignon, layered with foie gras, and who knows what else, and covered in one of the most transcendent sauces I've ever tasted. It was over the top delicious and it was also some of the best service I've ever had. The resto is called Andante.

            Another dish I remember as being extravagant, and amazing, was at a place called Thee Bungalow in San Diego. It was white sea bass in a champagne lobster sauce...incredible.

            1. I love letting loose for a big dinner, but I don't remember the details very well. They happen though, and all are happy!

              1. An authentic version of Buddha Jump Over The Wall. Essentially a one dish banquet with many of the more high profile luxury ingredients in Chinese cooking e.g. abalone, sharksfin, dried scallops. dried moss/fa cai. black chicken etc.... The broth that it was all braised in was incredible.

                1. I bought a certificate at a fundraiser auction for lunch/dinner for four at Greystone. This is where the CIA has master classes in the Napa Valley. I paid only $150 for this. We figured they would limit what we could order, as other places do. Nope, anything and as much as we wanted, no limits. Except we paid for wine.

                  We had foie gras, caviar, scallops, crab soup, sweetbreads, lobster, prawns, hanger steak and more. And then like we needed them, incredible desserts. We ate for over three hours. The bill would have been over $600, not counting the wine and tip. It was the loveliest meal I have ever experienced.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Janet

                    This reminds me of Craig Claiborne's most famous meal. I posted about this several months ago on "not about food" and as it's imbedded in a huge post I'll reproduce it rather than linking to it:

                    Perhaps the most expensive meal for two in history was eaten by Craig Claiborne in 1975. American Express offered the high bidder in a charity auction a no-price-limit dinner at any restaurant. Claiborne donated a big sum, won the meal, and proceeded to eat a 31 course, five hour meal at a top Paris restaurant. It cost about $4000 -- and would be a lot more today

                    1. re: Brian S

                      I was just talking about this yesterday! I remember reading about it in the NY Times when I lived in NYC. The restaurant was Chez Denis, IIRC, and I thought it was 24 courses, not 31, but I could be wrong. I also remember is that CC went with Pierre Franey and they planned it (the menu) in advance w/the owner of Chez Denis. The menu was classic French cuisine, heavy on the sauces, etc. CC and PF had to keep getting up and walking around the table during the meal. It would be interesting to find the original newspaper article about it.

                      1. re: rednails

                        Who could forget $4,000.00 meal at Chez Denis...the wines! And it wasn't a perfect meal. The article was reprinted in his book, Craig Claiborne's Favorite From the New York Times, Vol. 2. November 14, 1975. There is also a piece on how they decided on this restaurant.

                  2. This is an easy one for me--the Inverlochy Castle in Scotland. What an experience!

                    It is located just outside of a cute little town called Fort William, just north of Glasgow. I found it through a "Scotland" edition of Bon Appetit.

                    We arrived at the castle and were taken into the drawing room for a cocktail and some appetizers. Just the two of us. We sipped our Bombay & tonics and looked out over an incredible pasture with lakes and cows until our attention turned to the 3-tiered silver tray containing an array of beautifully presented tidbits, most of which I could not identify. I do know that we had ate haggas and enjoyed it. (We passed on the haggas everywhere else . . .)

                    After a while we were escorted into the main dining area, where there were just three other couples/groups dining. The meal was superb, though I don't recall details because the wine was also very much enjoyed. But I loved that they brought the main courses with silver covers and the waiters opened both of our meals simultaneously.

                    After 2 hours of dining we adjourned to a lounge area and enjoyed some port with another couple who had dined there. Very nice folks from Texas and we loved talking with them.

                    From there, we hopped in our rental car and went back to our $150 room in Fort William. The meal ran us probably $450. But we'll never forget it!

                    1. Ate at French Laundry for our one-year-anniversary. Need I say more?

                      1. Having been born poor and having pretty much stayed that way, I've never spent over $150 for two people for any meal, but I've been treated to some doozies! On a food tour of Hong Kong led by Martin Yan, we had a spectacular seafood dinner in a fishing/dining village across from the old HK airport; I've never really had ALL the fish, prawns etc. that I COULD eat, but that came mighty close, and it was all superb. And at my wife's French cousins' chateau in Burgundy, it was a nonstop feast for the ten days we were there, from simple suppers of tomato salad and little suede-skinned melons to tĂȘte de veau and braised guinea fowl and buttery, garlicky frog legs. We had a meal at Georges Blanc's place in Vonnas, and though it was very good I hardly remember anything about it, but the meals that Margo, the cook, churned out from her kitchen at BerzĂ©-la-Ville every day were stunningly memorable.

                        1. We spent around $500 for two at Masa's in San Francisco in the early 80s. (Only $85 of that was wine.) The company I was working for decided to give dinner for two instead of the usual cash Christmas bonus, so we made an effort to drive up the tab. Seven courses of 2-4 dishes each: appetizers, seafood, grilled lobster, white meat, red meat, chesse, dessert. Masa Kobayashi came out to meet us afterwards, saying, "I was worried about you."

                          The other candidate would be a thirteen-course meal at La Chiusa in the mid-80s.


                          1. My most extravagant dish actually did not cost anything and was in a private home. Many years ago a friend (a diplomate in DC) received one pound of fresh Beluga as a gift. He received it the same day that it was flown in from Moscow. Four of us ate scrambled eggs and Beluga (washed down with vodka)for the greatest supper of my life. We polished off the whole pound in one sitting and it was glorious!