Your perfect meal
If you could set up a perfect meal from all the restaurants you've been to in your entire life, what would it be, and what restaurant? Let's have a soup or salad, appetizer, entree, the best side dish and dessert. Some of these might seem silly.
For the table - Carmella's that used to be where Spiga is now on Central Ave used to have pretty subpar food, but they baked their own bread, and it was fantastic. People used to call up and order the bread all the time. I don't know why it was so good, but this was amazing. I'd have to say this bread would be the best thing to nibble on before a big meal.
Salad - There was a salad served at Gage & Tollner's in Brooklyn when I was younger that was out of this world. It was served with a dressing that was almost a cocktail sauce. It was outstanding. .runner-up would be Outback's chopped salad w/blue cheese and pecan salad.
Appetizer - the escargot at Le Cheval Blanc in Brooklyn. I doubt the place is still there, but I skipped the main course and ordered two orders of their escargot. Runner up would be the slab bacon or beefsteak tomatoes at Peter Luger's.
Main Course - Without a doubt would be Luger's Porterhouse w/ a side of sauteed spinach. I'd probably throw a baked potato in, but I said one side. Runner up would be the Duck L'Orange at the Town Tavern in Bronxville. It's now JC Fogarty's and doesn't have anything close to what the TT had. This duck was so perfectly cooked. Crisp skin, succulent meat, the orange flavor that didn't overpower. Amazing.
Dessert - I'm not much of a dessert person, so this is the hardest for me. I normally don't even order dessert. I'd have espresso and maybe some Bailey's or a McCallen's, maybe even some Port. Plus, after sinking my teeth into a nice salad, galicky escargot, and a juicy steak, why would I want to ruin it with a sweet ending?
Here's my go:
Salad: Green mango salad from Thai Shan in Toronto. Sweet, sharp, tart, savoury - it's all good.
Soup: How in the world to choose? Vichysoisse, borscht, the many great hot & sour varieties (NYC excepted - their version is awful!), bouillabaise, gazpacho, chowders of every description - love them all. But if I had to choose one, French onion is the winner.
Appetizer: Sardines freshly grilled on the quai at Portimao, Portugal. Best fish I've ever had!
Main: Porterhouse at Peter Luger is certainly in my top 5, but I have to put a lobster, oyster, and clam bake at a Maine beach with friends at the top of the list. A squeeze of lemon, a little melted butter, and the baked potatoes buried in the fire - I'm so glad they treated me to this!
Side: One dish that has stood in my mind for over 20 years are the "souffle" potatoes from the eponymous Madrid restaurant. I've tried to make them at home without success over and over, but these little puffed pillows of potato perfection are the world's ultimate chip.
Dessert: Another tough choice. My mom, now long gone, made the best apple pie I've ever had. It helped, I think, that we had apple trees in our cottage yard, where she would spend most of the summer, and thus had the advantage of freshly picked fruit. However, her pastry was the clincher (I remember her actually sobbing on days when it didn't come out perfectly due to the weather); crisp, flaky, yielding to a fork, but not so dull to come to a powder when you push in it.
On the other hand, my wife's chocolate chip cookies inspire paens of praise from the countless teachers, friends, students, children - and unfortunately for my waistline, me - who have enjoyed them. If she decided to make a business of it, I think Mrs. Field would be in trouble.
The clam bake sounds amazing. Something I have always wanted to do. I kept my choices to retaurants, or else my mother's Gazpacho would have surely been the soup of choice. To be quite honest, no restaurant compared to pretty much anything she made when she decided to treat us, which was more often than not. Friends always laughed when I would say how I had Paella for the second time this month, or lamb chops on Friday, Filet Mignon on Saturday, but I was excited because my mother was really going to cook something special on Sunday. To this day, I've yet to have a saurbraten, brisket, paella, any cut of beef, fish, lamb, or poultry done better. I am actually a little sour on eating out because I rarely pay for anything I used to eat for free that even comes close.
My mother never had a signature dish, because everything she made was just that good. She didn't do Italian food often, but when she did it was, and still is, better than any Italian mom or grandmother.
She used to make Zucchini Bread that was out of this world. It was like a dessert. Banana bread also. And she said she never baked, but anything she did was heaven.
Honestly, the best dessert I've ever had in my life was her cheesecake. Absolutely the lightest, but still decadent textrue. Topped with fresh berries. Scrumptious. The only close dessert I've ever had was my brother (who doesn't cook) made Pecan Pie. It came out amazing!
If we expanded this to anywhere, not necessarily a restaurant, I could be content eating cheese platters at any one of my parents old dinner parties. English Stilton, Camembert, Bucheron or Montrechat, Havarti w/dill and a really sharp cheddar. I could have that, a glass of wine or maybe some port and be very happy.
Salmon "ice cream cone" from the French Laundry
Bilinis , Caviar , and Creme fresh from Gary Danko
Crisp Long Island Farmhouse Duck with Plums from the Four Seasons
Vanilla Souffle w. Vanilla bean creme From Olives
Lemon Madeleines and Petit fours from Daniel
After dinner drink of Grand Marnier
Wow, this is a tough, tough one.
Bread: Not really a bread before dinner fan at all. I think I would skip this, but I had a Naan at a Chicago restaurant once, and I don't remember the name, that was so wonderful. The rest of the meal was forgettable, but not the naan.
Cocktail: I know it's pedestrian, but I love a good cosmo. The best one I've had was in Philly at Zanzibar Blue, which I've read is now closed.
Salad: Many places in Michigan do a simple salad with walnuts and dried Michigan Tart Cherries. Lovely with a little Gorgonzola and a simple vinaigrette.
Appetizer: Any place that does an outstanding escargot. I love them. Fortunatly, it's not as hard to screw up as some would imagine and I've had some wonderful experiences all over the states and world.
Main course: I was in Spain in the '70's and we had the most amazing steak. I don't know where it was. I was a kid, but it was in Madrid and it was heavenly. Rats, I wish I remembered. My dad has forgotten the name too, but we both remember the meal. I don't know if it was the atmosphere, the taste alone (ethereal), or a combonation that made that meal special, but it was sublime. That's such an overused word, but it really was.
Dessert: I'm not into too many desserts, but I really like, La Dolce Vita in Ann Arbor. I have a weakness for Tiramisu and they have a delicious version. There is maybe organge in there? Just a touch. Divine and yummy.
Good idea, jhopp217.
Sad part, all my favorite meals that spring to mind are from places long gone.
I have to include a cocktail n my perfect meal, and the martini at Le Provencal in Mamaroneckand the manhattan at Gavi in Armonk are the best. Oh, and the pomegranate martini at Sunset Grille!
Bread...fortunately, the best bread I've ever had is still around, at Zitoune in Mamaroneck.
Salad...Manero's gorgonzola salad.
Appetizer...my favorite meal of the day. Posthumously, the calamari at Zen Tango (gone), the pasta with escargot at Le Cremaillere (their chef left), and the codfish puffs at LaPaella (still there, happily). Oh, and the onion tart at Le Provencal, I almost forgot!
Meal...not big on entrees, but the spaghetti carbonara at a restaurant on the West Side of Manhattan, also closed, was nirvana. Wish I could remember their name.
Dessert...one of my four food groups, and I can't remember one of the many I've enjoyed. Oh well. I will give a shoutout to the free chocolate mousse I always had at the late lamented Harrald's. We used to save Harrald's for special occasions, and he gave a free mousse before the dessert.
After dinner drink...again one of my faves, Sunset Grille, makes an after dinner drink, white in color, that is outstanding.