What's your most exciting food experience?
Mine would have to be when I visited a friend in Italy who is part of a cooperative of land owners that hunts for truffles. We went out with his dog, Asta, and searched for hours, resulting in one small truffle. It was so exciting to be part of the hunt - really felt like searching for buried treasure! Best part was, that night, we sprinkled them over fresh pasta - heavenly!!!
So how bout you??
First, I must say that this is one of the best threads I have ever read. Such supber, in-the-moment writing; I can actually almost taste the food...but not quite ; )
Anyway, I have a fond memory of picking fresh blueberries from a farm at my grandparents summer house in Indiana. We picked, we came back to the house and made a fresh blueberry pie, my dad grilled some superb bratwurst and the sweetest corn on the cob. We ate out on he porch with the cool breeze and the sound of nature all around us.
Eating fresh kielbasa (when I cut into it, everyone was sprayed with red) and goulash (turned out to be like sauerkraut in gravy) at a mountain hut in Mala Fatra National Park in Slovakia. There's something astonishing about having a hot meal prepared in the middle of nowhere and a bit exhilirating about having hiked to get there.
In recent memory (past five years): My first souffle, made on the spur of the moment with three eggs in a small loaf pan. When I realized that I could butcher the recipe and still come out with something wonderful, I believed the chefs who have long said souffles are virtually indestructible and it's just a matter of set-up. Realizing how cheap souffles are, and how wonderful they are in terms of preparing in advance so that the only thing you need do once guests are all arrived is to take the souffle from the frig and stick it in the preheated oven, and how all guests express a radiant wonder when served a souffle (even one that is somewhat liquid in the center, as the French like them), I cannot recommend them enough as a tool for any home cook to have in his or her repertoire. If you can whip egg whites and make a bechamel, you can make souffles easily.
Just a couple of months ago in the village of Torgiano in Umbria. We rented a villa with friends and our kids were along. We spent the day in the markets, stoked up the outside brick over, and everyone pitched in. Teenagers were put to work chopping and mixing, someone rolled out pizza dough, someone else was baking, and all the while we sipped Presecoa and had a compilation of everyone's favorite music in the background. The, as night fell, we gathered on the terrace with the lights of Assisi twinkling across the valley, the table laden with dishes, and spent hours eating, chatting, and laughing. Life doesn't get much better than it was during those hours.
Twenty or twenty five years ago, I would have to go to classes or seminars at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver for two or three weeks at a time. The chow hall was available but some bureacratic shuffle required that I pay a surcharge fee that made meals there equal to or more expensive than the open market. Being a foodie, I soon found a little Japanese hole in a wall called Don Don, on Colfax Ave, fairly close to the base. My food dollars found the till there at least 5 times a week. Dad cooked at at a flat grill, mom served, grandma washed dishes. They actually lived in the (originally)service bays of the converted, 1930's gas station, now a restaurant. The menu was all pictures, no words. Prices were so reasonable. Everything was 2.50-5.00 with whole mackeral being the most expensive. My favorite was the Onyko Don Burri. Every meal came out on a tray with little bowls for each item (salad, soup, main course, condiment) and tea was included. The restaurant had about six stools with one covered by a paper bag for access to the register. I think there were about 3 (4 person) booths. My memory is that there was no waiting for seating inside. Patrons had to que up outside the screen door.
I've been told that the place has been torn down. I've also been told that the building is still there but a very low quality asian restaurant now inhabits the place. As the guy on the newsreels said, "Time marches on."
Was my favorite restaurant in the whole world.
Confession: One time, years ago, I found fire sale, airplane tickets and flew the thousand miles for a meal and a few hours of sightseeing.
For me, it was breakfast at a Macedonian inn that used to be a monastery. The place was very cheap and extremely simple. Breakfast was goat's milk, slightly sugared, and fresh bread. The goats were out in the courtyard, and the milk was still warm from the goat - it was the first time I'd had truly local food. I can still almost taste that sweet, warm goat's milk.
In the cooking vein, it was making my first meal at the age of four-and-a-half. (My mom was too sick to cook.) I still remember it: baked pork chops, baked potatoes, and canned stewed tomatoes. I was so proud. More importantly, I think I realized at that moment that I didn't have to be stuck with my mom's cooking. (I love her, but she's a terrible cook!) My sister and I took over most of the cooking a few years later.
i had the meal of a lifetime at a place called gian pepe's (sadly no longer in business, i am told) on the hill in st. louis. six of us sat down in a small dining room and we asked pepe and his mom to cook for us. the meal lasted 4+ hours. cold antipasti, hot antipasti, soup, salad, seafood, fowl, pasta, meat (veal and beef), and desert. plus many bottles of great italian wine. i literally did not eat a thing for more than 24 hours because i was so stuffed. magic.
Vacationing on the Isle of Arran off the coast of Scotland my DH and I stayed at a B&B. The owner woke us up early so we could drive across the island to pick out duck eggs for the morning breakfast. Needless to say, it was the best breakfast we ever had. FRESH duck eggs, REAL musli, bacon, ohhh my!
A tatami dinner in a lakeside hotel settled on the banks of a rural village up the mountains of Japan. We had an innumerable course-d dinner, with some of the freshest jewels of the sea. Every item was brought forth in the sweetest boxes, and it all ended with a refreshing, icy slice of cool persimmon. After a night of hot tubbing, the next morning treated us to a full-blown seven-course breakfast, each person's setting fitted with its own flame to cook a small fish; miso; pickled vegetables; rice; and more -- including the most perfect poached egg. Sigh, I love Japan.
re: Low Country Jon
It was in 2004, so I deeply regret to inform you that I cannot remember the exact hotel where we stayed. However, I do know that we stayed in Beppu, which is an onsen resort site famous for its hot springs and five-star treatments. The stay is worth every penny. I highly recommend the trip. Best wishes!
re: Low Country Jon
1. Some friends of mine living in Barcelona had what is a common arrangement with the Catholic Church there. They were responsible for the upkeep of a 14th century monastery outside the city, getting free use of it as a villa in return. One weekend, we all brought various foodstuffs, wines and spirits to have a communal dinner. In the morning, we tended and harvested the garden as well as picked snails from it for dinner. We literally spent the rest of the day preparing dinner. Then we sat down at the long, wooden table with benches and enjoyed the fruits of our labour. We had gazpacho, salads, tapas, beans, pasta, grilled sausages, roast chicken, cheeses and fruit. Simple, but so special considering the company and surroundings. Afterwards, we stoked the huge fireplace and enjoyed some Spanish brandy, coffee and good times.
2. A small town in France named Vic, in the Armagnac region. My friend and I had a three-course lunch with wine on a cafe patio for $50. This was a tremendous value for starters of truffle omlette and fresh foie gras, mains of cassoulet and duck breast with garlic frites. Pungent unpasteurized goat cheese and fresh fruit to finish.
3. Eating at Longhi's restaurant on Front Street in Lahaina, about 1987. They were on top of their game. Ordering from our server, relying on her rather than menus, was intriguing. They also had a strong relationship with Mondavi, so they offered all vintages of reserve wines. We had '81 Opus One by the glass. Enjoying our Longhi salad and then a huge seafood and spicy linguine platter for 2 with ocean view was priceless.
I think I'm going to cry writing this, but here goes. My husband, daughter and I vacationed in France a few months ago and before going I researched like crazy to locate the best places to eat within the Luberon region of Provence. There was one in particular that really caught my attention - it's not a restaurant per se, but a Table d'hote. This is a set up where all of the dining guests eat together at one or several tables. This table d'hote had long, picnic-style tables set up outside and was a working farm. We were staying at a farmhouse (mas) in a small village and our hosts had told us that this place was not to be missed but we'd have to go for lunch rather than dinner because driving there would be treacherous. It was probably less than 20 miles from where we were, but straight up through countless perched villages. I think it might have been located at the highest point of the Luberon mountain range. The town the table d'hote was in consisted of the table d'hote and a post office. That's it. We arrived on our last day in town (we stayed more than one whole blissful week) and were flabbergasted (and starving). It literally looked as though we were at the top of the world. A herd of goats were huddled together under a shade tree, one mama nursing her young. People were laughing, drinking wine, scattered around the lined up picnic tables. I thought I died and had gone to heaven. We looked around for the host and found a woman. As we approached her my husband turned to me and said, "I hope they take credit cards."
Of course, they did not. I'm not even sure they had running water, let alone a credit card machine. The closest ATM was where we had left from (Apt) and we were expected at our next destination that night.
So, we left. I don't think I spoke to my husband for at least a half an hour. I'm not sure I've ever been that disappointed in my life.
I guess I could call that my ALMOST most exciting food experience. Since it didn't happen, I'd have to say so far my most exciting experience was eating at Chez Panisse.
#1 Dinner at Patina (in Los Angeles), with 7 friends and one who was a pastry cook at the restaurant. The chef (Spilchal) oversaw our meal and we tasted just about everything on the menu that night. Each course was at least three different dishes that we would share. There were at least 5 courses. We had so many different animals that I lost count. Everything was excellent and we had the sommelier pair wine with each course as well. The best part, they comped us two of the wine pairings and kept the prices so ridiculously inexpensive that we offended them by over tipping - but didn't care. They treated us like royalty.
#2 Lunch at French Laundry when I was 6 months pregnant. It was a 17 course meal and I ate almost all of it. If I wasn't pregnant, I would have quit halfway through!
#3 Dinner at a 3 Michelin star restaurant in Sweden called Petri Poompa (or some such, it's in Lund). I was amazed at the fine glass and ceramic wear used throughout the place. Swedish art glass is used sparingly here in the US because of cost, but the sparkle to the table over there was just beautiful. The food was great too - I'll never forget one dish from that night, puree of chantarelle mushrooms, creamy and rich, just incredible.
#4 Fish dinner at a tiny little greek restaurant in Berlin, our first dinner alone on our honeymoon. The food was excellent and the company, devine.
I agree with the other poster, lunch at Ugleisch's is pretty high on the list.
I'll add walking around the outdoor market in Poitiers, France, with a French friend who knew all the goat cheese makers, vegetable sellers, etc. and getting samples from everyone, and then going back to their house to cook up langoustines and mussels from the market. We cooked the mussels outdoors on a bed of pine needles!
One of my best food memories is from when I was very young -- when I was 17 a girlfriend and I travelled to France together by ourselves. The first night we were starving and found some cafe, probably from "Let's Go Europe." We were intimidated by the meats and just ordered a green salad and an omelette but everything seemed to taste a million times better than it would have in 1970s America and I was hooked for life.
One that I will always remember is a meal I had several years ago.
My friends own a really nice winery in Virginia.
I went to stay with them one weekend and I arrived rather late on a Friday night.
They stayed up and had some stew on the stove and waited to eat until I got there.
As we sat down and got ready to eat, they told me about a deer that had been causing them fits.
It was creeping on the property and eating their grapes (obviously a problem).
But it was not deer season, so they were not permitted to kill it until they got permission from the local game warden.
When they finally had the paper work lined up, they had someone come in and they shot the deer.
Nothing goes to waste down there, so that was the stew they were serving that night. The owners are very good cooks and it was the best venison stew I have ever had.
The funny part was that at the time they had a really nice, big, lovable dog that seemed to like me. A huge Bernese Mountain dog named Bruno.
Every morning that I woke up that weekend, the dog had found the deer head that was disposed on the property and placed it outside the door of the little apartment I was staying in at the back of the vineyard.
We would attempt to throw it away in a far part of the property, but he kept bringing it back to my door.
I don't know if it was an honor or if the dog was trying to send me a more sinister message.
But the stew was amazing.
Lunch at Uglesich's Restaurant in New Orleans.
I have had allot of other great dining experiences since then but this is the meal that turned me into a foodie. I'm sure of it. When the meal was over I called my friend back home and I described everything in detail. He said it was like hearing food porn.
SHRIMP AND GRITS - Southern fried grits topped with shrimp in cream sauce.
FRIED GREEN TOMATOES (Picture Shown Above)- Topped with shrimp and remoulade sauce.
CRABMEAT AND POTATO PATTIE PLATE - Exactly what it sounds like.
FRIED SHRIMP POBOY
SWEET POTATO SOUFFLE
Picking blackberries in a field behind my friend's house in Portland. Gallons and gallons--all free!!!
Going boating around the islands off Belize (gorgeous) and bumping into some conch divers. They always pull off the tongue (?) of the conch as a treat for themselves before selling the rest, and they shared some with us. It's just a thin sliver that looks and tastes almost exactly like a very thick mung bean noodle.
Dinner at The Ritz Carlton Dining Room in San Francisco.
Brunch at Galatoire's in pre-Katrina NOLA.
Any number of trips through a night market in Taiwan, especially if there's a snake sighting.