Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Things I Wish I had Blogged

Like many people, some of my favorite memories are encompassed not only by the people I was with, and how I enjoyed the experience, but often with the associated tastes and smells. Food is universal comfort. Each individual eats differently, and has different tastes and preferences, and each considers food to be of varying importance. But, more often than not, food has been an essential part of our collective experiences.

Our first anniversary - a night at the Inn at Little Washington:
What can I say? It was a truly superlative experience.

London at 22 (a.k.a. broke) - testing the boundaries of just how many meals I could eat at Pret in one week:
A girl can only eat fish & chips so many times, and at least from my perspective, London is not a city to experience cuisine for the budget conscious.

My first time in Vegas (also at 22) - being asked to leave the Le Cirque because I didn't know how to dress like a grown-up:
Ok, so this is probably not a 'favorite' memory, but it's one of those moments in life that leaves a mark on you. I learned a painful lesson in dignity (and fashion) that day. I was so excited because the NY version of Le Cirque had been closed that summer for renovation, and I was ready to eat. Never having been to Vegas (and only being familiar with my dad's description of the 1980s trashiness), I packed like the student I was. Jeans, t-shirts, and a cheap sundress. Needless to say, thinking anything goes in Vegas, I showed up in an unacceptable ensemble involving denim and shoes walkable enough to travel up and down the Strip. Mea culpa - my outfit was just awful, and looking back on it, I honestly don't know what I was thinking. But, the disdain from the hostess taught me a valuable lesson. As C comforted and encouraged me through my embarrassed tears, I promised myself that one, I would I always be an advanced planner and never put myself in such a situation again (and certainly never give business to any establishment owned by Le Cirque), and that two, from that point forward, no one would ever treat me (or anyone in my presence) like that again.

Truly horrible fare at tourist traps in Venice:
Venice is a really lovely city. I know some folks have hit it in the wrong part of the season and despise it, but we had a rather perfect three days there. That said, I don't think we had one good meal in that time. How then was it a perfect experience? We were honeymooning and relaxed (and I'm never relaxed, so this was a very good thing). So, we were just too lazy to seek out, or wait out, the best dining experiences. Instead, we often wandered in to the most convenient locations. In one such instance, lubricated with wine, we stumbled our way back to the hotel laughing about how the vodka sauce actually tasted like the kitchen staff simply spilled a bottle into the pan at the end, and the sardines tasted as if they had been treated in lye. So many morsels spit into napkins, but such happy memories nevertheless.

A pig roast for high school graduation:
There are certain things you can only get away with in a small town - a dude (who I believe has since gone to jail ) hauling a spit with his pickup into our backyard for a pig roast is maybe one of them. But, let me tell you, that pig was phenomenal, right up there with Komi. We were giving away bags of meat for weeks and had pork in the freezer for almost a year after the event. And still, I crave it at times!

Desperately wanting McDonald's in Barcelona:
At this point, C and I had been traveling through southern Europe for about two and a half weeks. We had some culinary triumphs (see Santorini below) and some disasters (see Venice above). But, by that point, we were a little sick, a little exhausted, and we were just done with the rich, flavorful European fare. We wanted something simple and dull - we wanted McDonald's. Whilst tiredly walking down Las Ramblas, we saw them - the shining Golden Arches. I had never been, nor have I been since, so happy to be beneath their glare.

Our blow-out meal at Michel Rostang in Paris:
Ok, so I kind of covered this one. We decided that you are only young and in Paris once, so just before starting our family, we had a beautiful long weekend there and spent an obscene amount of money on a crazy meal at Michel Rostang. We were the first or second to arrive for the dinner seating, and we shut down the place sometime well after midnight.

Steak frites and chocolate mousse at a little bistro which we enjoyed so much more:
I'm not laissez-faire. Perhaps I mentioned it? Oh yes, in this post actually. So, the idea of spending the amount of money we did at Michel Rostang for just one meal, I just couldn't let it go. I'm a saver by nature. When we had the perfect steak frites, wine, tartare, and chocolate mousse the following evening, at maybe a tenth of the price, this left a feeling a bliss. A simple bistro and a quiet evening with the one I love - now that experience was worth whatever the cost, but heightened by the fact that we did not pay much.

C's taking one for the team - the notorious garbage can dinner:
There are so many goodies to be had while camping - fresh caught walleye sauteed in a cast-iron pan over a campfire, smores, pudgie pies. But, some folks just love tradition - some folks define experience by really bad food. Those folks are the members of my church, who camp annually over Memorial Day weekend. Mind you, I love these people - they were an integral part of my upbringing. That said, whomever amongst them that decided throwing random pieces of hot dog (and other 'assorted meats'), veggies, and water into a (new) steel garbage can and setting it over a fire to "stew", that person really needs to be punished. It is truly disgusting and my family, over the years, came up more and more creative ways to avoid the annual garbage can dinner. We were often 'late' (after eating a meal on the road), forgot something at Meijer that we needed at that very moment (once, we left my poor grandma there), or had something we had to cook or it would go bad. My brother always trotted out the vegetarian excuse (though what's left in the pot could hardly be considered meat). Well, at some point, the 'church elders' started to suspect that perhaps our family's excuses were more than coincidence. This happened to coincide with C's first year of joining us for the camping excursions. We were greeted by the our smiling camping comrades who had saved us ample portions of the garbage can dinner. Now, I don't remember precisely how this happened, but C ended up taking one for the team. Before the rest of us could be forced to down the disgusting stew, he choked down bowl after bowl. I believe he nearly vomited after the exercise. This was the moment C became a member of the family. We will all be forever grateful for his soldierly valor in defense of the clan

Denny's in Amarillo, Texas - the one I will never forget
When we moved to Cali four years ago, we road-tripped it. After many, many hours through Oklahoma outrunning tornadoes and then the sparse panhandle of Texas, we were so very, very hungry and tired. I have never had corned beef hash that tasted so good.

Pizza on the docks in Napoli:
I know, I know, there is no substitute for Neapolitan Pizza; it needs be to be the certifiable good stuff. That said, I'm convinced that Pupatella serves up a better pie that the dockside bar in Naples (it was an Italian holiday, and the sailor bar was the only place open). It was laughably bad.

Greek pastries at sunrise in Santorini
This is rather self-explanatory. Blissful buttery goodness, coupled with the sun glistening over the Caldera. Doesn't get much better than this.


Angela said...

This is an absolutely gorgeous post, kind of makes me want to come up with a list myself (just for me). And I know I just heard that story, but reading the garbage can dinner story made me giggle all over again!

W. Mark Felt, Sr. said...

Thank you so very much. It was a deeply personal post to write, so it means a lot. While food often inspires true emotion for me, it still tends to stay on the surface level. This post delved a little deeper, so I'm glad to hear that others could identify.

Anonymous said...

I read this on Angela's recommendation. And I absolutely love it too. And like her, I too want to write about my experiences with places and foods. Totally OUTSTANDING blog!

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