Food’s one of those things that brings people together. We all eat and, as we’re a bunch of privileged North Americans, we eat often and well. We have international variety right at our fingertips, or maybe just a car drive away. I was a bit surprised at how difficult choosing a single favorite meal was for some of the girls. I personally jumped to something right away, but for a few of us (especially those who consider themselves FOODIES) it was much, much harder.
It’s probably worth noting that the thing I find the most interesting about this week’s question is how people answered. Some responses are “this meal tasted great and that’s why I liked it”, while others others talk less about the food itself and more about the experience they associate with the meal. Food’s a compelling and surprisingly personal thing, it seems.
Becky: I’ve eaten tons of great food, but there’s one particular memory that immediately leaps to mind when I think “Best Meal Ever.” The first time I ever had real cream of mushroom soup, made with, you know, cream and wine in a rich mushroom broth, I fell in love. You know, that whole “stars in your eyes and little hearts floating over your head” kind of love. It was magical, and on a buffet–so I refilled the bowl and ate until I sloshed. Good, good times.
Hillary: My brain jumps immediately to New Orleans here. My fondest memories from my twenties are (by and large) from traveling. I was lucky enough to hit N’Orleans three times pre-Katrina. Two of those trips, falconesse was along for the ride. We stayed at this spectacular hotel called Hotel Provincial (which I highly recommend to anyone thinking of visiting the Crescent City) and, being NOLA newbies, we had no idea where to eat. We knew we needed to try a po’ boy and a muffaletta and a beignet, but we weren’t exactly sure where we’d get said goodies. Enter Stella’s. It was this posh little restaurant next to our hotel, and by posh I mean it was a six hundred dollar food experience for four people. I remember thinking HOLY SHIT, ARE THEY SERIOUS but I’d never quite indulged to that degree for food before, so I sucked it up and went along for the ride. If nothing else it’d be something to bitch about when we got home.
It was worth every damned bite.
The funny thing is I don’t remember details of what I ate beyond we had some kind of soup with squash and bacon, and I had chicken. Someone else had pork. But I remember the presentation, and the atmosphere of the restaurant. I remember the four of us making rapturous groany noises as forks went into mouths. Can I tell you what my side dish vegetable was? Shit no, but I can tell you whatever it was, it was fantastic.
Jeni: The best meal I ever had was ice cream at Amy’s on 6th Street, car packed with presents and trailing tin cans. They gave it to us for free and we took our pictures in the photo booth and I got Mexican Vanilla with Strawberries on my wedding dress and it was perfect.
Caulle: Best meal ever? Oh that’s easy. Steak and Caesar salad. This is a favourite of mine for a couple of reasons. My parents divorced when I was 4, and when I was 8 my mom remarried and we moved about 3 hours away from where my dad lived. So trips to see him because a lot less frequent. But every Saturday night when we would visit him for the weekend, he’d make us grilled t-bone steaks and Caesar Salad. My mom isn’t a big fan of red meat so other than Hamburgers this was a treat for us. And it wasn’t just any old Caesar Salad. He’d fry up real bacon for it ahead of time, and the dressing was made from scratch from a recipe his mother gave him. That was all topped with real grated Parmesan cheese. Fucking heaven.
Tami: Homemade pad thai with freshly chopped veggies, lots of peanut butter, and a little too much cilantro. Best served with friends.
Fallah: For someone who loves food, this was incredibly difficult. I have very few stand-out, memorable meals.
Tuna Tartare at Sky Sushi in El Dorado Hills, CA does stand out. My husband and I were out with our Sushi Lovers Meetup Group (hell yes, it is awesome). We arrived late. The couple across from us had ordered this dish and it arrived just after we were seated. After we ogled it, they let us try some. “We order it every time,” they said. Soon we understood why.
Finely chopped maguro (raw red) tuna blended with a mystery sauce. Served in a grapefruit-sized ball with sesame crackers. The plate was swirled with wasabi sauce, but we’ve decided it is unnecessary. We each took some on a cracker. The tuna just melted in my mouth. A savory, delicious blend of flavors: the rich, meaty tuna, definitely sesame oil, maybe green onion? Whatever is in that stuff, it is like crack.
We immediately ordered our own plate, trying not to stare at our companions as they finished theirs. It was definitely worth ordering. We could probably eat five plates of the stuff. I’ve tried the dish at a few other restaurants in the meantime, and no one blends it quite the same way. Sadly we don’t get to go out there much, but every time we go we know for certain that we’re ordering up some Tuna Tartare.
haemonic: This is hard for me because, as part of being a hundred-pound weakling, I don’t think about food. I don’t plan it, I don’t eat much of it, and I sure as heck don’t remember it. Still I would have to say that my favorite meal of all time is dim sum at Jockey Wok-and-Roll–don’t knock the name, it’s serious business inside. Shrimp wrapped in rice pancake, pork buns, and the perfect dessert: bean paste in mochi. They come around with the food in little carts, so you don’t even have to connect a name to a food–you just point and go “I’ll take one of -those-,” and keep doing that until everyone’s full. Most important, of course, is that dim sum is a large group activity, which much sharing and food-snatching.
Damn, now I’m hungry.
Jinxifer: Man, I’m Italian! Food is the center of EVERY good thing. Every *caring* thing, anyways! Insofar as it’s a handy symbol for love, and less ambiguous than words to same effect…
And though the finest dining is one of my reasons for living and I’m tempted to trot out some absolutely brilliantly crafted meals it has been my privilege to pay for the privilege of delighting in —
I’ve got to say the best meal I’ve ever had was Thanksgiving in July.
See, I’d been dating an older guy for a few months. And his first birthday since I’d known him was coming up. So — being Italian — naturally, I asked what his favorite meal was. So that I could make it for him.
I didn’t expect silence as the answer.
See (he eventually explained), after 16 years in the military, where food was just fuel (and that’s if you could get any), he was just completely flummoxed by re-realizing that a meal could be anything but an inconvenience.
For a week, he thought on this.
Then: “Thanksgiving dinner!” he announced, one night as I was drawing.
“What?” I said, spaced.
“You asked,” he said, as if there hadn’t been a seven-day gap between then and now.
“I’ve been thinking about what meals I loved, before I joined the military,” he continued. “And I keep coming back to the fact that there’s nothing as tasty, and comforting, and…peaceful, as a Thanksgiving dinner!”
I don’t think he thought I’d seriously do it. Because, by the next month, he seemed to have forgotten.
But I hadn’t. And, by God, I *did* it. (Ever try to track down a whole turkey in July? Or cranberry sauce?) In the end, there were five courses, four guests, and only one 11th-hour freakout, as I learned quick, the night before, that defrosting a massive icebrick of a pimply-ass bird in a tepid bathtub takes for ever.
He was so moved, he continues that tradition to this day.
Watching his eyes mist up at that surprise first feast in his honor, I remember thinking: THIS is the best of what food can do. THIS is the best meal, ever.
And so, to this day, for me, it remains!
Itanya: The best meal I have ever had was a few years ago at Timberline Lodge. My mother and her husband met me and my husband up there for Christmas dinner. The meal was amazing, It was venison and very tasty. It was also the last time I remember getting along with my mother.