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Great food eaten in surprising places?


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I'd have to say.....kid's birthday parties.

A few years ago my younger daughter switched schools. Her new school is more culturally diverse than her previous school. She's now the "white kid" at the birthday parties. So instead of the cakemix/storebought cake and crappy packaged snacks that ruled at all her older sister's friends' houses, she gets to eat Cambodian food prepared by the birthday girl's grandmother, at another party there was an entire feast laid out that was only for the guests as the family was observing Ramadan and wasn't eating til later. There is always too much food and they always ask me to try some when I come to pick her up.

So where have you found some cool foods in unexpected places?

If only I'd worn looser pants....

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Teri, what a cool story! When I read your first line, I'm thinking, "say what?" Love it.

One of the most amazing meals I ever had, was at a gas station on the Natchez Trace (I think we were still in Mississippi). Gumbo, biscuits, and pecan pie with a crust so golden and tender I knew it had to be lard. This was a long, looong time ago, and I can still taste it.

"Oh, tuna. Tuna, tuna, tuna." -Andy Bernard, The Office
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Portlaoise, Ireland. Any good food eaten in Portlaoise is surprising. My siblings and I had our morale shaken by Egan's New Cafe, and were positively disturbed by Egan's Nasty Old Restaurant. I gave up vegeterianism and immediately wanted it back. Despite our Dad's recommendation (my Dad was not a gourmand), we walked into Jim's Kitchen, which is baffling in the best of ways. It works on a cafeteria-style concept. By the time we got in (early afternoon?), many of the dishes behind the sneeze guard were 86ed. Nonetheless I was delighted to find a sort of quiche-like baked lentil pie (lentils!), a *real* salad, and the best apple tart I have ever had in my life. The best apple tart I ever expect to have, actually, and I grew up with a yard full of excellent apple trees. There was even edgy modern art hanging on the walls. Jim, the Gannon family salutes you.

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The cafeteria at the top of Mount Roberts, Alaska. There was a visitor center there and a ranger station and a nice trail, and a generic parks service cafeteria.

After hiking around, we decided to grab something at the cafeteria before taking the tram back down. Something told me to get the fish and chips. I don't know why, I don't order it often, especially not at cafeterias, it just sounded good.

It was among the best fish and chips I'd ever eaten. Huge chunks of white fish that I guessed at the time were halibut, lightly battered, freshly fried, crispy and flavorful. Fries cooked just right - crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. Never expected one of the best meals of the whole trip to be there, but we were darned glad it was.

Marcia.

Don't forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he wanted...he lived happily ever after. -- Willy Wonka

eGullet foodblog

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The canteen at the Sekolah Kebangsaan Merchang (the public elementary school in Merchang, Terengganu, Malaysia, a township of some 3,100 inhabitants in those days, spread between several villages) during recess in the mid 70s. Most every day, I had delicious keropok lekor (a kind of fish cake) with hot sauce, and great kueh bakar (woodfire-baked cakes made with wheat flour, coconut milk, eggs, and sugar). Sometimes, I got mee goreng (fried noodles), which were also quite good spicy home cooking. And always, I drank teh o (tea with sugar) with the snack. The taste I most remember is of the kueh bakar, which were so good!

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Breakfast burrito in the employee cafeteria, Santa Fe post office. These were enormous, a wheat tortilla folded around scrambled eggs, a pile of home fries, and wonderful hot salsa.

It was about 20 years ago.

Oh, also, the student cafeteria at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. When I was there in the early 1990s, a Thai family had the lunch concession. Really good pad thai.

Margo Thompson

Allentown, PA

You're my little potato, you're my little potato,

You're my little potato, they dug you up!

You come from underground!

-Malcolm Dalglish

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When I was about 5, the family of a little girl I had met on a beach in Maui invited me to eat lunch with them. Teriyaki beef -- though I didn't know what it was at the time -- grilled on the beach with white rice. I can still envision the shock of how flavorful it was. I think it's my first food memory.

Curry at the Hong Kong airport when I was about 11. We had a long layover and the glop on white rice didn't necessarily look very appealing. But, man, was it ever good.

"International Day" lunch in high school. A Romanian mom prepared delicious Romanian sausages, stuffed cabbage leaves and the best baklava I've ever had.

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Years ago, I took a one-day seminar at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Ate lunch in the cafeteria where one of the choices --and of course my pick -- was roast Cornish hen with wild rice stuffing! Geez. My schools never served cafeteria food like that!

SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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A casino buffet in Las Vegas that was part of our package at a less than top quality place. Never expected anything more than passable food.

The flan was so good I went back to get a second helping and I would have gone for a third had I been able to eat more.

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[...]Curry at the Hong Kong airport when I was about 11. We had a long layover and the glop on white rice didn't necessarily look very appealing. But, man, was it ever good.[...]

You're reminding me of the vendor who sold delicious curried fishballs on the Kowloon side of the Star Ferry back in 1987. I wasn't thinking of that as a very surprising place to find great food, though. An airport is probably a little more surprising, but this is Hong Kong we're talking about, one of the great eating cities in the world!

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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living in Rabaul, New Britain in the early 70's, before it was blown away by a massive volcanic eruption (but that's another story)...long Chinese history, fleeing Nationalists, KMT Club, a small trade store on a dusty street called ah Chee Avenue..the BEST cooked chinese style whole chicken I have ever eaten.

Around the corner the best Indonesian food I've ever had, including in Indonesia, the place run by a half Dutch, half Indonesian man who also had a 4 piece jazz band...wow, and this was New Guinea........

hadn't thought about these places for years til I saw this thread and dug into my memory :smile:

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February, 1980

On a trip to Cap Haitien, Haiti with the Student Optometric Service to Haiti. Befriended by some young affluent Haitiens, was taken to the most pristine beach...........Labadi, which is now a stop for Royal Carribean Cruise Lines :angry:

Local fisherman caught fish and lobster and made us a feast with rice and beans, served on banana leaves. (Really) We brought the Barbancourt rum and Prestige beer.

For someone who had just left Philadelphia's 28' weather, it was Paradise.

:smile:

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