Memorable & Valuable Food Experiences....
Posted 07 February 2004 - 04:06 AM
Eating shellfish I'd never seen before on a dive boat off the southern coast of Chile was pretty memorable. But I'd say the most moving travel and food experience I've had was going to the Ukrainian culture center in Chicago and having a bunch of old ladies that looked like my grandmother recreate an ethnic Christmas Eve feast that I remembered from my childhood. (As described in "A Ruthenian Christmas Carol," the last essay in Are You Really Going to Eat That?)
Posted 07 February 2004 - 07:18 AM
At our first dinner together, the foods were all rather unfamiliar -- some I recognized components of but it was still hard to sort out. The food was served family style and you took just a little bit on your plate and then ate it. One of the dishes seemed to be a green vegetable with little white seeds, so I designated this one as "safe" and took some on my plate. I was then informed that the white "seeds" were actually ant eggs.
For me this was pretty freaky, but it's not the point of the story. The punchline came after I had eaten a few leaves of the stuff. The father said, "Oh, you like the ant eggs? It's too bad you missed grub season. You'll have to come back next year!"
I carefully noted the dates of grub season.
Posted 07 February 2004 - 11:08 AM
Posted 07 February 2004 - 12:21 PM
One of my fondest recent food memories is of attending the eGullet pot luck on the New Jersey/New York border at the Bobolink farm. I only wish I could have made it to Varmint's Pig Pickin'!
Posted 07 February 2004 - 02:14 PM
And Russ, I was lucky enough to hit one of those Dungeness crab feasts up in Oregon. It was at a fire house on the coast and they were raising money for something or other. You paid ten bucks and they handed you a wooden hammer.
It's true though--when you're lucky enough to write about food for a living, everyday is a memorable food day.
Posted 07 February 2004 - 02:44 PM
Posted 07 February 2004 - 02:50 PM
Posted 07 February 2004 - 04:16 PM
None whatsoever. I wonder if the shrimp I ate there several years ago also came from Louisiana? They certainly didn't shovel them out of a local snowbank.
Any idea how Swedish crawfish are prepared, John?
Edited by John Whiting, 08 February 2004 - 12:42 PM.
Posted 07 February 2004 - 09:46 PM
Right up there on my list of top food experiences ever was my first trip to France as an adult with the means to eat in Michelin-starred restaurants. We reserved at several and our first meal was at Maisons de Bricourt in Brittany, the restaurant from chef Olivier Roellinger. I remember being a bit fearful that the language barrier would be a problem and that the whole experience would be stressful in various ways. Instead, we were almost immediately put completely at ease by the waitstaff and soon came an avalanche of unusual and fascinating food in a multi-course tasting that seemed never to end (and that I didn't want to end). More importantly, what I had feared most -- that the Michelin-starred places would be Disney-fied versions of fine dining -- was decidedly not the case. Roellinger, and many others (Cote St. Jacques in particular), were in the final analysis family run restaurants that happened to be serving the world's finest cuisine. I also loved that, especially in the more rural fine-dining restaurants, a real cross-section of the population was dining there. Working-class French folk were there celebrating big birthdays and the like. I had not expected such a lack of pretentiousness at this level.
The next couple of weeks took us through Brittany, Burgundy, Alsace, and Champagne. We ended the trip in Paris at Abroisie, which takes the term "temple of gastronomy" to its logical extreme -- you really feel like you're in a temple. I don't think I've ever dined so well so much in such short a time. Too bad 90% of my photos didn't come out. This was the one time in my life that a busted camera did me in. Try to get a Leica fixed in France on short notice. Go ahead, try.
Posted 08 February 2004 - 06:12 AM
But the best food and travel discovery I ever made was the French "Ferme Auberge" system. These are French farms that run restaurants and bed and breakfasts. The restaurant has to serve food produced on the farm. I have eaten at snail farms, dairy farms, duck farms, cattle farms and a foie gras farm. The foie gras farm didn't actually serve foie gras, better yet, they started with garlic soup, then rilletes and Bergerac wine, then duck confit and potatoes cooked in duck fat. Some of these places also have bed and breakfasts. It's tough to organize your trip though because the program is run by the French Agriculture department and they have divided the places into regional booklets. There is no overview. You have to request the booklets by region. But you can see the Ferme Auberge signs on the road whereever you drive in France. Whenever I see one, I pull over and check it out.
Posted 08 February 2004 - 12:42 PM
Robb, the ferme auberge system is indeed wonderful. Our approach is to arrive in our VW Westfalia camper and ask if we can eat dinner and then spend the night in their parking area. The answer is invariably, "Oui, monsieur!"
Edited by John Whiting, 08 February 2004 - 12:49 PM.