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The Best Meal of Your Life...


Carrot Top
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I love eating alone too, but honestly, the company is important to me.

Some great meals in my life... eating breakfast at camp as a teenager. Nothing, nothing tastes better than french toast and eggs steaming hot off a tin plate while sitting on a rock in a forest on a coolish June morning. Or that peach cobbler my friend Russ made for me one night off at the camp's dockside firering. Not only was it delicious, it was made in my honor. That tastes pretty darn good too.

Greece, as a college student. I honestly had no idea tomatoes could taste like that. The fact that it was incredibly cheap helped too... I could afford so much more there than I had been able to anywhere else in our travels.

Then there was the Thanksgiving the year my son was born. I was still in the hospital for the day itself, but the Saturday after we returned home my mom put together the feast for us. It was great. Very traditional, but I was so happy to have our family table be complete.

I also loved our wedding dinner. If I had to choose ONE favorite meal that would be it. The food was really very good. We got married in a small Wisconsin town. The reception hall was a recently renovated dance hall from the 40s, the new owners were retired chefs from Milwaukee. He had been making buffets for small town affairs for about 6 months - ham or beef, potatoes, salad, fruit if he was lucky, corn, beans, gravy, bread. That's it. When we mentioned we would like veal marsala, herbed salmon and a vegetarian lasagane his eyes lit up. He promised us salmon off the boat that morning, veal like you couldn't get for 100 miles and he delivered. It was a great meal, definitely the best reception meal I've ever had. Plus the company was amazing. All four of my grandparents were there, all of our families and close friends. (and, get this, it was $14 a plate! Even in 1994 that was a serious bargain, my Chicago friends were paying $50)

This is a cool thread. Lots of great memories.

What's wrong with peanut butter and mustard? What else is a guy supposed to do when we are out of jelly?

-Dad

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Fresh_a, I think that was to counter some of the "ambience" posts. I've had some pretty good meals alone too.

Not so much to 'counter', exactly...for if one is in a situation where there is that 'ambiance', created by having other people around, that is absolutely wonderful.

It was a real question, though, that I was asking, although I phrased it flippantly.

I'm pretty sure that I am not the only person in the world that... did not grow up surrounded by loving family whose influence would leave a legacy of wonderful food memories, and am also quite sure that I am not the only person who has lived a somewhat isolated life at times due to a variety of circumstances that can affect people.

Many people at different times in their lives are alone for many reasons. Some of these could be: having to geographically relocate often, health problems, personal crises such as divorce....

Just putting my two cents in, that's all, for something I really feel, that the best meal of one's life actually could be experienced solo...and just wondering if anyone else had had the same experience and was willing to share their experience.

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The eating alone thing works fine for me...there certainly can be an intensity of experience born of focused concentration on flavor, something that is, at least in part, inhibited by the presence of others, of the need to partake in conversation, to be social.

But my best meals have still occurred with others. Two tasting meals at Seeger's in Atlanta were fantastic (one other just so-so), and another at The Dining Room (Joel Antunes as chef) was not far behind. And the multicourse meals I cook at holiday time with my mom and the rest of the family--some of those have been great.

To answer this question, do we need to have 2 categories? One would be context-free, i.e. the best food, period. The other would be the meal in context, e.g. that great watermelon that I "borrowed" from a nearby field when picking okra for 6 straight hours in the 95 degree heat...

To what degree can context even be separated?

Chip Wilmot

Lack of wit can be a virtue

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What was the best meal you've ever had in your entire life?

(Yes, very hard to answer, I know, but certainly fun to think about... :wacko: )

What was it that made it the best meal...the food, the company, the ambiance, the timing, anything else...? :smile:

So many threads these days remind me of earlier, also great ones, on similar topics.

Like this one on the Greatest Restaurant Meal of Your Life.

:smile:

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Carrot Top... You are going to love this one. I like traveling and eating alone. I do it fairly often. I like traveling and eating with the kids and my friends as well. I consider them two different things. Well... back to my most bizarre.

I was in Hawaii alone, on Oahu at the time. I had driven to the beaches on the northwest side of the island to watch the waves. The place is totally deserted and I have some snack food in the car... shrimp chips and such. There are these two albatross sitting in the sand clacking their beaks and generally carrying on. They are obviously an item. I am sitting there on the bumper of the car munching my snacks watching them when they quit their beak clacking and waddle over to me. They looked me straight in the face with a look that said... "Well... Are you going to share?" We continued for some time to exhaust a whole big bag of chips. I had dinner "alone", human-wise, with a devoted albatross couple. That would have never happened if I had been traveling with other people.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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The best meal I can remember was at a place just across the border in Mexico. I believe the little town's name is Progreso and the name of the restaurant is Arturos. It was in about 1974 had frog legs, tenderloin, lobster and a bunch of other stuff. The tab was only about $8 a person or so as I remember.

I've been to that restaurant many times, most recently about two months ago. It's still there, still great. But that meal of yours can no longer be had for $8. :cool:

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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To answer this question, do we need to have 2 categories?  One would be context-free, i.e. the best food, period.  The other would be the meal in context, e.g. that great watermelon that I "borrowed" from a nearby field when picking okra for 6 straight hours in the 95 degree heat...

To what degree can context even be separated?

Good question. I don't think it can be separated.

Part of the intent of the original question was to attempt to define what would make a meal 'the greatest' for people, and to find a common thread of context if there was one.

I'm curious about this both in a professional and personal sense, having been responsible for preparing the context and the meal itself many many times, and usually aiming (if not too tired) to have 'this one' be 'the best one'.

There were negligible mentions of dining solo throughout the discussion...

This could be due to the fact that many people just plain do not enjoy it, or it could be that the consensus of the contributors was so strongly weighed towards the idea of companionship as a vital part of the meal that some people who feel otherwise, would not post for fear of being the 'odd duck'.

Companionship, locale, fresh air and physical exercise, and hospitality, (the feeling of being exceptionally well taken care of), were all mentioned as part of these 'best meal' experiences. And touches of serendipity, too. Besides, of course, the technique, knowledge, and skills of the chef.

It was also interesting to me to see that there were no writings of real hunger...the sort that gnaws the belly...in any of these writings. (You know, they say hunger is the best sauce...) Again, either this is a very lucky group or else nobody is mentioning it due to it being different than the norm.

These are all fascinating to me to read and thank you all for sharing!

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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Carrot Top... You are going to love this one. I like traveling and eating alone. I do it fairly often. I like traveling and eating with the kids and my friends as well. I consider them two different things. Well... back to my most bizarre.

I was in Hawaii alone, on Oahu at the time. I had driven to the beaches on the northwest side of the island to watch the waves. The place is totally deserted and I have some snack food in the car... shrimp chips and such. There are these two albatross sitting in the sand clacking their beaks and generally carrying on. They are obviously an item. I am sitting there on the bumper of the car munching my snacks watching them when they quit their beak clacking and waddle over to me. They looked me straight in the face with a look that said... "Well... Are you going to share?" We continued for some time to exhaust a whole big bag of chips. I had dinner "alone", human-wise, with a devoted albatross couple. That would have never happened if I had been traveling with other people.

You are right, Fifi (as you so often are)...I do love this story!

But are you certain, now, thinking back on it...that it wasn't Mayhaw Man in an albatoss suit posing as one of those birds...trying to see if you had any pickled okra in your picnic basket...

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  • 2 months later...

Nobu, Charlie Trotter, ADPA, Susur and Perigee aside, the best meal of my life to date was a favor I did for a friend where he put together a 12 course, wine matched meal for his father and 11 guests and invited me to sous with him in his kitchen.

It's memorable because of the work put into the event, the gushing praise of the guests (all of whom were foreign gourmands with the exception of my friend's father and his guest who were local gourmands), tasting the fruits of our labor, the shear joy of being finished, the left overs and the realization that I could never do that for a living.

It starts out on a Tuesday last May where my friend asked me to take him "shopping in the big city". My local purveyors who are accustomed to seeing me once a week went out of their way to help my friend and I. One even went as far as coming with us and giving us "cred" with his friends enabling us to stretch the budget to accomodate beluga caviar, moulard foie gras, a huge bag of morels, and a gross of lobster tails. In fact I should thank them all by listing them in my next post.

After our shopping trip, I went back to my normal life for a few days, while he returned home to prep - all day Thursday and Friday while communicating with me to assure that we were on the same page as far as presentation, sequence of dishes, responsibilities and wine matching.

I arrived at 11:00 (two hour drive) with a car full of cooking gear straight out of the French Laundry Book (my inspiration) and the Charlie Trotter Book (his inspiration). At this time I must say that I have had some odd, hard, back breaking jobs in my time but nothing, absolutely nothing prepared me for what I was getting into. I got right to work prepping for him and prepping for the two dishes which were my responsibility - 2 for me, 10 for him - afterall they were his dad's friends.

Since we've never worked together like this, there were some miss steps in communication and we were not as efficient as we could have been but it was fun as hell. All of a sudden it was 6:00 pm, 30 minutes until guests arrived. Remember we're doing this in a residential kitchen, everything rented, two knucklehead "chef want to be" professionals in their late 30s cooking for 12 people, one fridge, one 40" - 6 burner professionnal range, 4 coolers, and his wife doing everything we were not. I believe the pros call this "in the weeds" - I call it f'ing screwed.

Now to the menu:

Parmesan Tuiles with Salmon Tartar and Creme Fraiche - Keller inspired

Blinis with Three Caviars & Traditional Garnish

Brocolli Flowerettes with Truffle Oil & Asparagus Mousse

Mandarin Orange and Salmon Mousse Quenelles

Leek & Spinach Soup

Butter Poached Lobster with Poached Fig and Moulard Foie Gras - Keller inspired

Lobster Angnoloti with Crisp Sweetbreads & Truffle Oil

Seared Tuna with Wasabi Butter

Roasted Red Pepper Sorbet on an Ice Plate

Ontario Lamb with Morel Sauce (made up the sauce on the spot - exillerating)

Artisinal & Farmhouse Cheeses

Chocolate Mousse Cake

Throughout the evening we got to hear about all of the global dining experiences of the guests as well as some damn good feedback as to what to do next time - yes it's an annual. Everyone left by about 1:00 am. We started to clean for the sake of cleaning when we decided it would be much more fun to get into the left-overs and sear up the remaining foie gras and open the extra Sauterne and go until we dropped. What a night.

I wish I could say that all of the wines worked but they didn't. They were my responsibility. We doubled up on some courses and the menu could have been built to support the wines but it was about the food. Afterall, 12 people in their late 60s early 70s eating 12 course are not going to go nuts drinking.

Once a year is enough for me. I've gained a tremendous amount of additional respect for the professionals in the food business to go with the unwavering admiration I already had for them. :smile:

Homer: Are you saying you're never going to eat any animal again? What about bacon?

Lisa: No.

Homer: Ham?

Lisa: No.

Homer: Pork chops?

Lisa: Dad, those all come from the same animal.

Homer: Heh heh heh. Ooh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal. (The Simpsons)

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The best meal I have ever had was a dominos pepperoni pizza in the duluth airport after spending three weeks in the boundry waters with nothing good to eat.

Or

Thanksgiving five years ago. My dog and I celebrated alone. She got her first pheasant that day. I cooked it up with some home-made Kansas crabapple jelly.

Or

Svilars in Hudson Wyoming after a week in the bush. Worth the trip.

Or

The powerbar and gatoraid I ate after spending 25 minutes neck deep in ice water.

Or

The meal I had in a little french restaurant here in town. I ordered a chicken crepe and the chef loaded my plate with quail and sweatbreads instead.

Context plays a big role in how good the meal is. Great meals are not served in a vacume.

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