Your Culinary Rosebud
This came up on the Boston Board.
Myamily legend has it that the first place I ever ate at as a two year old was the Shanghai Cafe in NYC.
Amazing old school Cantonese place actually.
As we discussed it on the Boston board I realized that essentially my entire life has been a quest to refind the lost: Hot and Sour Soup, Beef with Black Bean Sauce, and Shrimp with Lobster Sauce of my lost childhood.
The place was amazing, and the 70 something year old waiters sweet as could be.
Another hound on the Boston Board chimed in that her father used to drive from CT to eat at the long lost Shanghai Cafe.
But for me, the Shanghai Cafe will always be my culinary Rosebud.
Please chime in with you own...
As a high school student my best friend and I would save our lunch money and only eat M&Ms during lunch break at school so that on Fridays we could go to eat at this place Gumbo's, a Cajun restaurant. We would both order crawfish etouffee. I remember just putting a dollar or two of gas into my tank so that I would have enough gas and cash leftover to get to Gumbo's. The etouffee was spicy, salty, rich and delicious. I have never had it as good in another restaurant, and cannot replicate that deliciousness at home. The owners sold Gumbos including all of the recipes some years ago, and the new owners opened new fancy locations, but the new Gumbo's etouffee is hit or miss, so I don't go there often.
Le Festival in Coral Gables, FL would be it for me. I will be forever grateful to Le Festival for the introduction to french cuisine. My memory of their souffle is still the pinnacle and the standard upon which I compare all other souffles. Unfortunately, they closed many years ago. Their escaloppes de veau vennoise will be my "last supper" choice. Vive Le Festival!!!
Mine is a home-cooking memory: mid 1960s, I was about 11, and my dad took me one chilly spring morning to 40 Steps in Nahant, MA, to gather mussels from the rocks. I was sloshing through the tidal pools in tennis shoes! We came home and he cleaned and steamed the mussels briefly, pulled out the meats, and sauteed them with an enormous amount of garlic. It was about the most delicious thing I had ever eaten.
Maybe ten years later, I was living in Central Square, Cambridge, and there was a fishmonger (now long gone) on Prospect Street just off of Mass Ave. who routinely sold mussels at 3 pounds for a dollar. One of my favorite poverty dinners was to but a dollar's worth of mussels and try to replicate that fry-up, but I never could match the magic of that long-ago breakfast.
When I was a kid, my parents took me for a weekend of sand and beach play in Solano Beach, California. I remember crawling out of the water to an amazing burger on one of those poppy seed-studded, braided hamburger egg buns. I have never tasted a burger so good in my life...
Mine are fish sandwiches with their secret tartar sauce recipe and homemade coleslaw on the side from "The Fence", a little seasonal drive-in by the river near Lewisburg, PA. That's Rosebud-I.
Rosebud-II is the home-made pasta, sauce, and all the trimmings a friend's Italian mother always made for a celebration dinner after my high school's Homecoming football game. We'd eat ourselves into a stupor, wake up the next morning and have the leftovers for breakfast! Better than Thanksgiving!
re: Jenny Ondioline
You just conjured the memory of mine: the cheeseburger at Murphy's Steak House in Bartlesville, OK. On any Sunday there'd be a line of hungry people stretching clear around the little concrete-block restaurant, mostly there for the steaks. Whole families would sneak out of church halfway through the sermon. And when I Googled it, it's still there! Murphy himself couldn't possibly be; he was old in 1960, and smoked constantly, but someone is obviously carrying the torch reasonably well.
Here are a couple of special food memories for me...
1. Being taken to one of the earliest Japanese restaurants in NYC - the Miyako - where they brought a brasier to your table and made sukiyaki right in front of you. I was about 12 (it was the late '50s) and it was delicious and I was smitten by it all. My great aunt brought me there and I remember feeling so grown up and elegant and I remember the silky, whiteness of the hand-made tofu.
2. One of the early very special destination restaurants of my youth was when my parents took us to La Fonda del Sol in NYC (owned by Restaurant Associates, I think - who also owned Windows on the World I think) for some of the most delicious paella ever. Gorgeous Mexican artwork tucked into brightly colored, lit little alcoves in the walls right next to the table. Again, I was probably only 11 or so, but I still have a deep sensory memory of the look and feel of that place.
Thanks for reminding me of these great memories.
Mine was Hong Kong Kitchen in Rancho Park, just south of Westwood in California. I ate there as a little kid and loved it forever and compared it to all Chinese food forever.
One day, I decided to see if it was still there. It was and it was awful. I have no idea if that was due to changes over the years (ownership, cooks, chefs) or if it was never all that good or if it was just a change in my tastes.
My other rosebuds (all from LA) were and still are:India's Oven, which used to be on Pico but burned down, relocated then changed, Junior's Deli (no potato pancake or blintz can or will be able to compare!), Royal Thai Cuisine on Pico somewhere near Overland. All the Thai food I've had since then just tastes of a lessor quality and flavor. Anna's Trattoria on Pico near Westwood has always been my favourite. It was my first Italian restaurant and I STILL find it to be the best I've ever had.
Later, from when I was about eight until I was 35, The House of Lee on Sunset became my second favourite Chinese restaurant. It was the second Chinese restaurant I'd eaten at and I kept comparing it to Hong Kong Kitchen. Ya know what, it was better! Then, I lost interest in greasy Chinese food and switched over to lighter Chinese food so it is not really a rosebud anymore.
Weird how things follow us like this!