I’m playing hooky from a piece on Ebola in the United States. I tried for three nights, and it’s just not in me. Too many moving parts and too much evidence that we’re not all on the same time, wanting the best possible outcomes!
So for a while I’ve been thinking about a post or series of posts about my favorite things. The Sound of Music—“My Favorite Things”—is a mild impetus, but it’s a very mild one. Candy bars have come to mind—in my dreams I own a candy store in a really cool small town like Trinidad or Leadville, CO, or Missoula, MT, with a great catalogue and Internet/mail order business—and favorite foods. Instead, I’m going to describe a few memorable, exceptional meals.
When I was probably seven or eight, we had a neighbor whose relative—I actually think it was a woman—was an officer at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. (For non-Tucson residents, it’s our local military installation.) One Saturday night I recall going with my parents to dinner at the Officers’ Club. (Sisters stayed home, as I recall.) I remember a patio with a pool (and maybe even swimming), charcoal grilled steaks, a salad with a rich dressing, which was probably Roquefort, and a baked potato. The pairing of grilled meat and rich cheese has never left me. I’ve also never lost the image of military officers as very dignified, ramrod-straight men, although I’m still pretty sure our host was a woman.
The next meal I really recall clearly—and positively—involved Aureole in 1989. Ms. J and I flew to New York on a red-eye for two nights at the Waldorf, followed by three or four nights in DC, and a last night back in NYC. Ms. J found a $100 bill on the side of the road the day before we left. The bill became five $20s, which were taken by a young man who helped us get a cab at Grand Central Station for the six block walk. (Tourists!) I took out after my money. I didn’t get it, which might explain why I’m still here, for a couple of months later a guy my age was killed in front of his family after resisting a mugger.
Anyway, after the $100 debacle—we assumed the money Ms. J found must have been dirty—we had a fine, fine meal at the afore-mentioned Aureole, located, then, in a beautiful townhome on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I think the prix fixe was $60 pp, but the meal was worth every penny. Most amazing was the dessert I had, which looked like a chocolate circus, with five or six things going on, on a huge plate, in different shapes, textures, and flavors.
In 2008 I attended a conference in Miami. Our group, based on my research (and my veto of Danny DeVito’s restaurant), ate at Sardinia Ristorante in Miami Beach. Animelle to start, followed by Polpo Alla Griglia. (That’s sweetbreads with Brussels sprouts, followed by the best grilled octopus I have ever tasted.)
Three more, quickly: In 2013, with a group of 12 people I ate amazing Vietnamese food at Tamarine in Palo, Alta, CA. And, last but certainly not least, Cate Rubin and I had terrific Asian bistro food at ChoLon Modern Asian Bistro in 2012 and great sushi at Yuba in the East Village in New York City.
Who really understands why meal A stays in your memories and meal B does not. Nevertheless, the memories last, they are cherished, and I hope some of you will share yours.