Linda & I married the day after my birthday in 1989. We persuaded the owners of a very nice restaurant near Lambourne to open specially for us and had a superb meal with children, close family and selected friends. The next day we took off for (you guessed it) California for our honeymoon. We started in Carmel naturally, ate our way up to San Francisco, then Mendocino and on up to Eureka. This was Linda's first trip to the states. Although we had some great meals I think the American breakfasts were her favourites. She had trouble remembering whether she like her eggs easy over or over easy, but otherwise Linda picked up 'Americanisms' pretty quickly.
Back home in England we bought a cottage on a river near Newbury and did a lot of cooking and entertaining. We'd a gather the kids (the youngest being about 20 years old) for traditional English Sunday lunches with Linda as Chef & me as Sous Chef. We also started making our own sausages, comfit and pates. We ate very well. We used to drive over to Wells Stores which was at the time THE best cheese shop in England.
We also cooked a lot up in Linda's beloved Northumberland where she owned a house from before our marriage.
Meanwhile I was having the time of my life at work. We were mashing two companies together, 8 European subsidiaries plus Distributors. Many,many food experiences during this time. Here are just a few:
- Toit de Passey. This is a restaurant that was really really good. I took Linda there when we went to Paris to buy her wedding hat. The neighbourhood was nothing to brag about & you entered the restaurant via a small clunky elevator, but you walked out into a magnificent room where one wall was all glass framing the Eiffel Tower. The food & service lived up to the view.
- Group dinner with our French subsidiary. Yves our MD asked what apero I'd have. I said same as you. It came. Delicious. It was a 1910 port!
- We were set to go to Spain on vacation. A few days before we were due to leave my Swiss friend, Pierre, called; " Did we want to come over to have dinner at Girardet's near Lausanne? ". YES! I went home & told Linda who thought I was nuts, but went along with it & changed our reservations. She found out why. At that time Girardet was reckoned to be the best restaurant in the world. Its still the best restaurant I've ever been too.
- Another Pierre & Girardet story. We had a new product, sold for about $100K each. Pierre & his crew had sold more that I expected them to by about July. Pierre said that since they'd exceeded their quota they may as well quit selling. I said no, he said what incentive can you give us. I said lunch at Girardet for every 2 more you sell for a salesman & his companion. I hosted lunch for 14! Best ever incentive program! (Linda got to come as my 'companion')
- Two stories about our nutty Greek company President. He didn't like England, thought the food was bad. When I finally enticed him over he insisted on staying in London even though our offices were an hour away be train. We had a good day, went home for cocktails & headed off to the 'The Waterside Inn' of Roux brothers fame. sat out by the river, had a great meal. As the meal drew to a close I could see that he was getting nervous about how he would get back to his hotel since it was the opposite direction. I was non committal. Eventually I paid the bill and we walked out to a waiting chauffer driven Rolls Royce I'd hired. He never gave me any trouble about coming to England again.
Some years later he & his wife were over on a vacation visit & were staying with us. He really really wanted to buy dinner for us, but I kept saying there was nowhere good we could get into. Finally he persuaded Linda to call the 'Manior des Quatre Saisons' Raymond Blanc's place near Oxford. Low & behold they'd had a cancellation! Off we went. Again a superb meal. As Raymond came around to our table to see how things were we asked if it would be possible to visit the kitchen after dinner? No, we had to see the kitchen working. Raymond put our meal on hold & spent 30 minutes showing us around the kitchen & introducing us to the cooks. A truly memorable experience.
In 1993 I was again asked to return to the states to head up marketing. Away we went. After quite a bit of thought we decided to renovate the Carmel Valley house rather than buy something else. We rented for nearly a year before it was finished.
We had my dream kitchen. Two dishwashers, a solid wood maple work island 21/2 by 6 feet. My pride & joy was my Jade Dynasty stove.
6 burners, a griddle, a gas BBQ and 4 ovens. It had a custom built hood that was so powerful that if you turned on all the fans it sucked smoke from the fireplace at the other end of the house. Linda & I cooked many a meal in that kitchen.
As well as the cooking there were (and still are) a lot of great restaurants in the area. In the village itself the 'Running Iron' served great ribs; 'Plaza Linda' was superior Mexican and 'Wills Fargo' was a good place for steaks. My absolute favourite though was 'Rocky Point', perched on a cliff over the pacific it has great views and served superior steaks & seafood.
I tried to take early retirement, but was bored. It was too soon. Fortunately some industry friends asked me to start & head up a new Division of their company. The bad news was that it mean moving to Chicago. We did, made some great friends and ate very well. The weather sucked, however and Linda plus dogs were on the point of rebellion. Luckily for me we decided to move the Division HQ to Rhode Island where our factory was located. The weather was much better and the sea food was outstanding. We went to our first proper clam bake, learned to cook lobster and did a lot of entertaining.
Our favourite restaurant was called the 'Middle of Nowhere Diner'. It was a real dump, but they served the best ever fish & chips, the Friday special was $3.95 including a bowl of chowder. Great stuff.
Near the end of 1999 Linda persuaded me to retire, permanently this time. We'd planned to retire back to our Carmel Valley house, but a combination of an unbelievable offer for the house plus many illnesses & deaths in the family requiring trips to England made us reconsider moving 3000 miles further away.
Where to go? Back to Europe for sure. The English weather didn't appeal. We both loved France. Decision made!
I'll write the rest of this in French since that's where we've lived for the past 12 years.
No, just kidding. Besides it would probably take me several weeks to figure out the vocabulary, grammar and to write coherently.