November 13, 2006 UPDATE: Contest entries are now closed. Thanks to all of you for sending in some wonderful entries. Winners will be announced and notified on November 14th. After ten years, Pacific Palate on CBC Radio’s The Early Edition is coming to an end. There’s a reason behind my departure, and I’ll reveal all the why’s and where’s on November the 14th.
In the meantime, to reward my loyal listeners, we are running a fantastic contest you can win by telling me about your most memorable meal…all you have to do is scroll down to the comments section of this page, and write no more than TWO PARAGRAPHS about your most memorable meal ever. We’ll read some of the entries on the air, and on November 14th we’ll announce the grand prize winner. The deadline is noon, Monday, November 13th.
The grand prize so far includes dinners for two at three of the best new restaurants in Vancouver:
and Senova. For an updated list of prizes, (yes, there’s more!) click here.
For me, my most memorable meal of recent times came this spring in Italy, with my wife Ramona at a tiny little bistro in Rome. It was the perfect lunch, joking with the waiter, being able to point at a dish of large, tenderly braised artichokes in the kitchen and having them delivered seconds later to our table, toothsome pastas, and an amazing appetizer of fresh cantaloupe, arugula and prosciutto.
I look forward to hearing your stories about your most memorable meal! …and good luck in the contest.
Many of my most memorable meals took place in a kitchen that seemed to have suffered the ravages of a doily bomb, and were witnessed by a parade of baby dolls, covered in saran wrap, gazing out from the decorative shelves. My grandmother’s tastes for interior design were unusual, but her tastes in cooking were infallible.
The soft sweetness of caramelized onions would fill the air, which had been mounded in all their buttery, artless glory atop a steaming pile of perfectly hand-pinched perogies, or as my Baba called them, varenyky. The slippery, aquadynamic pods drowned in a sea of silky sour cream. The brimming bowl was always presented with the refrain, “Eat, eat! You’re too thin!” Adoring that argument, I dove in, fishing out the little packages filled with love.
My Toshi Experience
Miso Cod, my first succulent bite elevated me above the realm of cautious California Roll eater to a higher Japanese food stratosphere. Writing about it is enough to ponder splash-guarding my keyboard to prevent salivating spills. My girlfriend and I, having recently moved to the city, stumbled upon Toshi’s nondescript entrance off the bustle of Main. Inside we immediately sensed the presence of something Great; wise, robed men, in unison, acknowledged us with a welcoming grunt as glistening raw fish was sculpted. The ubiquitous Hoshizaki sushi fridge displayed tentacles and fleshy colors. Waitresses with Zen-like auras, existed, or so it seemed, to nourish our souls; awaken dormant senses. Unopened menus were returned, our Waitress becoming our culinary Sensi. Sake toast to our new city as we awaited the offerings.
What happened next was a fishy blur. Silence interspersed with lip smacking, sighs teetering on sexual. ‘Oh god, this is the best thing I have ever…’ and other attempted sentences cut short, mouths overwhelmed by pleasure. Conversation was no longer necessary. Complete presence; senses on overdrive with the combination of food, springtime love and the thrill of discovery in our adopted city. Perfect moment. Thanks Toshi and Thank Cod!
My then boyfriend (can a man in his 40s be a “boy”friend?)and I traveled to Whistler for a weekend away from our busy jobs in February, 2003. We spent the day skiing and laughing in one of the most beautiful locales in the world. It was cold and crisp and the sky was a brilliant blue that day.
That same evening we enjoyed a lovely dinner at the Val D’Isere restauant in Whistler village. The food was rich and heartly, and the wine was equally robust. A perfect foil to the wintry night. We talked and laughed for hours in front of a roaring fire in the restaurant. It was a delightful and memorable evening all by itself. But as we left the restaurant, on the steps to the sidewalk, my amazing date proposed marriage, and presented a ring that sparkled more brilliantly than the stars on that cold, clear night! A memorable meal – and the start of a magical life together!
My most memorable meal was in 1994 – in my kitchen in St.Petersburg, Russia. Communism had collapsed in Russia in 1991, and my wife and I moved there as missionaries in 1993. Life was hard back then, the shops were empty, there were line-ups an hour long in sub-zero conditions for bread, cheese, milk and the very basics for life. We were glad to be there as missionaries, but we did indeed miss some of the “luxury” items from back home. As we were still learning the language it was hard to find work. Eventually I found a job that paid $100 a month, which barely covered rent and transport, and inflation was running at 30% per month. The most we could afford was literally bread, cheese and tea.
Then I had a little bonus at work one day, and we decided to “blow it” on some western goods. All we could find in the local market was a 2l bottle of Coke and two tangerines – but to us it was a throwback to the “west”. Never before or since had coke tasted so good, and the tangerines were simply a delight. Now we live in Chilliwack with our kids, and get to sample the fantastic array of foods in the Fraser Valley. We are still truly thankful to be living in this part of the world, and appreciate our “daily bread”!
The most memorable and anticipated of meals it was. It was four years ago at the epicentre of modern American Cuisine, The French Laundry in Yountville California. Thomas Keller was in the kitchen that day, the maestro himself. It was lunch, the chef’s tasting menu. The choices were a modern yet traditional California style fare or a more edgy Offal based menu. I was ready to trust and experience Keller’s wonderful offal
Let the organs begin, perfect little dishes one after the other appeared with a flourish from Armani clad staff. Liver, seared with a crispy potato pancake, kidneys, turned into something unimaginable,sweet breads with citrus and crispy zest, two or three dishes that I still don’t know what part of the animal they came from. Washed down with wines from across the road and down the lane.I imagined Chef in the back, reaching into the animal, pulling something out and saying,”lets try this part”. The wine flowed and the organs continued for 3 hours, I asked for the bill, closed my eyes and handed over my credit card. Offal in the afternoon, was a most wonderful meal. Rob Mingay
My most memorable meal happened on the ship while we were emmigrating to Canada. The Atlantic was so stromy that our family of four were the only ones that did not get seasick and showed up for dinner. Each of us had several servers lined up waiting for any command that we may issue. Even a blink of an eye brought a response from a waiter hoping that I may want something.
The most memorable meal.
Just south of Guadeloupe, still being part of the French West Indies, lies a small island group called “Les Saints”. It was here my wife and I had the most memorable meal. In the village any house, where there was a woman living that had a daughter, had been made into a restaurant. Now try to picture us how we were sitting on a perfect warm summer like day (in January) in somebodies yard amongst different types of fruit trees. And we were having crusty French bread, a green salad with the lightest of a simple oil and vinegar dressing, skate in a mild tomato sauce, steamed rice, and the beverage was fresh passion fruit lemonade.
Sixteen years I worked as a chef in northern Europe and across Canada. One of those years I was the chef at Humberto’s restaurant “Il Jardino”. Yes, I have come across some very good food, but nothing has topped the simple meal we had that day on the Island of Les Saints, in the French West Indies.
Good luck on your new veture.
Peter A. Jensen Tsawwassen, BC 604 943 9650
My most memorable meal was for a graduation dinner at the Noodle Makers in Gastown.The smells sights and sounds were amazing. A large most filled with colorful Choi fish surrounded our tables. Our lovely meal of crab in black bean sauce, great B.C. redwine followed by orange tangerine ice
cream served in wooden serving bowls was enriched by the sounding of the gong and feeding of the orange choi fish.Our wait staff dressed in kimono style dress added to the ambience.
A memorable meal is not only about the food and service; atmosphere, location, the company you’re with and your state of mind are contributing factors too. All of these are why my most memorable meal was a Brie and Walnut Gnocchi dish in Bellinzona on the first night of a trip to Switzerland that I had won in a recipe contest. My husband and I were jet-lagged but were feeling the exhilaration of anticipating what experiences our travel would bring. We had wandered around town and decided on a little hilltop restaurant where in the distance you could see Italy. I had the delusion that English and my limited French would serve me well enough to converse anywhere in Switzerland- or at least to be able to make sense of a menu. Fortunately the waiter was a talented pantomime. My husband was a little hesitant ordering a pasta that had scurrying creatures with lots of legs in it, but happily it did turn out to be crab, not spiders. Since I had promised myself I would eat chocolate and cheese every day while in Switzerland, I decided on the Brie and Walnut Gnocchi. I had no idea the Swiss made such a delightful Brie!
It was a meal I’ll never forget, not only because of the food but also because of the people and the place. As soon as I returned home to my familar surroundings I experimented to come up with a recipe to duplicate what I had had that night. It’s delicious, and although it will never be the same, every time I make it, it evokes memories of that meal in Switzerland.
In 1985, I took an Italian immersion course in Florence. One of my professors was an urbane, chain-smoking, Vespa-driving guy who had lived in the city all his life.
One hot summer night, he invited me out to dinner to a restaurant I knew to be fancy and expensive. We pulled up behind the restaurant to park his Vespa. I thought we would walk around to the front, but he led me to a back door. There, behind the kitchen, were wooden tables and benches — no fine linen and candles like in the restaurant. But it was crowded with many locals, drinking wine, laughing and talking. Apparently, what we ate — melt-in-your mouth veal accompanied by an amazing concoction of rice, stinging nettles and artichokes — was the same food served (mostly to tourists) in the restaurant, but at a fraction of the price. It was a great way to practise my Italian and spend time with the locals. An unforgettable night.
In July 2005, my husband and I rented an apartment in the ancient walls of Ramatuelle, a perched village in the south of France. The views of the nearby Mediterranean were breathtaking, the village itself charming, the rose wines cheap and delicious, and the daily temperatures scorching. During our month in Provence, we ate at many wonderful cafes and restaurants, including one whose blackboard menu listed only one item: bouillabaisse.
Our most memorable meal however, did not take place in a restaurant or even at a table. Two weeks into our stay in Ramatuelle, we were surprised one morning by a visit from our friend Francoise, a very elegant Parisian academic who was en route to a conference. She had stopped by for the day to see us. Since the temperature was already hitting the high 30s, we quickly packed a knapsack with towels, sunscreen, mineral water and plums and got ready to head to the beach. But first, we made a stop at the one bakery in town “La Tarte tropezienne” for some “pissaladiere” (an openface provencal tarte with caramelised onions, anchovies and olives)and a couple of hardy “pans bagnat” (a provencal tuna sandwich on a crusty bun, with onions, tomatoes, fresh peppers and olives). We drove down to the seaside, parked the car, and hiked about 3 kilometers to a pristine cove, accessible only on foot or by boat. There we spread out our towels, dove into the turquoise blue water, and stretched out under the perfect blue sky. While beaches all around were teaming with sunbathers, we were the only people in this magical spot, and it felt like the entire Mediterranean was ours. When it came time to unwrap our pans bagnat, Francoise turned to us dreamily and said: “You know, the only thinking missing is a glass of chilled rose.” As if on cue, at that very moment we heard the “put-put” sound of a little dinghy coming into our cove. Sure enough, a couple of bikini-clad entrepreneurs were making the rounds of anchored yachts and secluded beaches, offering cool drinks and chilled bottles of wine for sale out of a styrofoam cooler! Madly waving at the dinghy, our elegant friend scrambled down the rocks to the water’s edge and before we knew it, was back up there with us, holding a freshly uncorked bottle of delicious rose and 3 plastic cups. We leaned back in the sun, raised a toast to our good fortune and savoured our delicious meal and our friendship. No 3-star meal will ever dislodge the memory of that perfect lunch.
My most memorable meal happened on the ship while we were emmigrating to Canada. The Atlantic was so stromy that our family of four were the only ones that did not get seasick and showed up for dinner. Each of us had several servers lined up waiting for any command that we may issue. Even a blink of an eye brought a response from a waiter who was hoping that I may want something
Six adults sit stretched out around the table, bellies bulging from the unfinished stew. Treated to a restaurant specializing in o-chanko, the staple diet of sumo wrestlers, never has a meal so amply nourished yet utterly defeated me. Served with steaming rice and potent sake, an o-chanko is a Mount Fuji of lean meats and fresh vegetables, cooked in a communal, bubbling broth of mirin, sake, and dashi stock.
On this particular occasion, I learn how this low-fat meal results in the wrestlers’ renowned bulk. First, the heaping portions of o-chanko are served twice a day. Second, four sumos easily polish off in just one sitting double what we six could not complete. We dared to challenge an o-chanko, and we lost.
The most memorable meal I truly enjoyed was on a trip to Port McNeil to go fishing with some new friends in the late 1980s. We stopped at a delightful rest stop by a snall lake. In those days fishing for kokanee in Okanagan Lake was very good. I had taken along some kokanee I had smoked, along with ripe tomatoes from our garden and for dessert ripe peaches and strawberries, also from our garden.
We remarked at the time that we couldn’t have had a more perfect meal in a more delightful setting.
This is a treasured memory as I have been a widow fo 12 years.
Don, I have enjoyed this site and told many others about it. Good Luck in your endeavours and I hope you won’t disappear altogether. Louisa
Brain Food in any language…My husband, Don, and I went on a backpack, “$5 a day” trip to Europe a couple of years after we were married 35 years ago. I was brought up in a family in Burnaby where my mum made delicious, nutritious meals made frome ingedients that were high quality. However, I cannot say that my mum made very adventuous or exotic dishes! When I got married I moved to Gibsons where we met our employers from England who introduced us to gourmet experiences… wine and food that could rival Julia Child’s best!
So, when we traveled to Euorope on our adventure we were primed for fine food! One evening in Paris we looked in our guide book and identified a prime spot for our dinner. A restaurant on the left bank near the university area attracted our attention. We arrived and were seated at a table that was a picnic-type setting with benches and a shared atmosphere. There was a black board menu which listed the items according to the day from which I decided to order. The big draw for me was the serendipitous Thursday offering of “L’agneau cerveau” because I thought I was ordering some association of “lamb” which I loved! I was so looking forward to my meal when the server brought out a white, very thick plate with a steaming, unmistakendly skull-shaped sheep’s brain seated on it with not a potato, carrot or sprig of parsley to adorn it! The sigh† of this “righ† out of the skull” culinary deligh† absolutely stopped me in my †racks! I reacted with an absolute denial of the dish and all the Parisienne patrons surrounding me seemed in agreemen†. I remember having an alternate dish served and everyone seated at our table sharing wine and having a good laugh on my account. I learned that having a bit of french language is not enough when ordering food in France! Thanks for sharing with us your world of ingrendients and eating on CBC, I have enjoyed your experiences as you have shared them! Good luck with whatever you have chosen as your next adventure! Hope you don’t go too far away!
The most memorable meal – was it the first ever croissant and cafe-au-lait as a hungrey traveler in Paris (that was a long time ago) or the BBQ squid on a stick at a night market in rural Taiwan or the communal Thanksgiving dinner in the 70’s where all the “back-to-the-landers” produced or gathered every bit of the food! (except for the spices and salt, of course) or the opening night of a friend’s restaurant … … and the memories scroll through my mind but return, as they often do, to an afternoon the summer I was nineteen. My closest friend was about to leave for a year long trip and we were on our last drive through the back roads of New Brunswick ending up, this time, on the Pointe du Chene wharf. The lobster fishermen were boiling up their catch and selling it. Between us we had just enough money for one lobster and one Moosehead beer. Legs dangling over the side of the wharf in the warm sun we cracked the shell as best we could sharing all the best bits and ending up covered in lobster juice. The sweetness of the lobster and the bitterness of the beer were a great contrast and reflected our mixed feelings at that turning point in our lives.
Food and friendship and the most memoralbe meal.
PS on that long drive to work you have been a treat to listen to – Thanks
Coming from Montrea, the city of the “vrai gout”l, it was very hard to adjust to a place like Kamloops. The desert like climate was the barometer for many realities of life in the early 80’s., especially the lack of good places to eat. So, my and husband and I learned to adapt to the new lifestyle by learning to live off the land. So the most memorable meal was a result of a few ventures. First, we went fishing with the children to Black Lake and within one hour, we reached our limit of brook trout. They were all three to four pounds and were as red and fleshy as salmon. The following weekend, my husband went on another fishing trip making his way through the bush and managed to accidentally hit a few wild birds! They were grouse, tiny but full breasted light succulent treasures.
Our garden was a huge and onerous project as the soil was so lime based, but we managed to produce a variety of root, vine growing and leafy vegetables that my 22 cubic freezer was absolutely full!! The result of all of this was a truly memorable Thanksgiving meal, where we abandoned the traditional meal and replaced it with food that gave Thanksgiving a deeper and more authentic meaning of which we were truly thankful. and, oh yes, we had pumpkin and blackberry pies to sweeten and enhance this memorable moment!
My most memorable meal was when I booked the wine cellar at Villa du Lupa as a surprise for my husband on our anniversary.
The restaurant had just been opened and the raves were coming in. We had heard it was a fabulous place to dine, but had not been there yet. When we arrived at the restaurant my husband was so happy that I surprised him with this restaurant. But, he was a bit concerned when the hostess lead us down the narrow wooden stairs to the cellar. When she opened the door to the wine cellar we were greeted with a candle lit intimate setting for two. Surrounded by bottles of interesting wines to browse and the cool temperature could not have been more perfect, since the weather outside was very warm. The food was of course special and fabulous. The service staff were prompt and provided us with our privacy.
A most memorable meal…
Have fun in Italy
I moved from Vancouver to Toronto to go to university. One of my new friends, an Italian, lived at home and would bring the most amazing lunches. His favourite was meatball sandwiches. Yes, he lived at home and his mother did not even speak English despite her having lived in Canada for decades. Recognizing the opportunity for an authentic dining experience I dropped subtle hints of a dinner invitation for most of the duration of my four year degree. It wasn’t until after I graduated and returned for convocation that both my parents and I finally received that elusive invite.
Although I’d been a bus boy in an Italian restaurant as a teenager, I wasn’t prepared for true family-style Italian dining. After all this build up I was initially disappointed in the mound of pasta placed in the centre of the table. I thought, “Penne with tomato sauce? I could have done that!”. To the delight of my friend’s mom, I took heaping seconds of it. I did not of course realize this was only the start of what turned out to be an amazing multi-course meal that taught me about true Italian eating and what it feels like to be uncomfortably full.
The most memorable part of my travels in my young and delinquent days was a lazy lunch shared among 10 friends overlooking the Adriatic Sea in Dubrovnik. The spread of food consisted of freshly grilled tender octopus and anchovies with lemon to seared lobster and very light and simple angel hair pasta. We also shared many, many carafes of the house red filled from large wooden barrels. We all reveled in splurging for dessert and with very little contemplation, we engorged ourselves with layered wafered walnut cake and hazelnut gelato. To our delight, the dessert, thanks to a gracious host, was on the house and as we gathered up to leave the terrace, I almost forgot to take in the breathtaking view of the turquoise sea. I was so consumed by the tastes and smells and of course, the wine, the surroundings came as an afterthought. I hope to return one day…hopefully soon.
My most memorable meal was at the Olive Garden in Bellingham, Washington back in Sep 2005. My Dad had a stroke in May of that year which left him paralyzed on the right side and unable to speak. He finally felt better in Sep. so my Mom and I took him for a short visit to Bellingham. We dined at the Olive Garden because they just loved the bread sticks there. The meal was good but what made it the most memorable was how the Manager treated us. My Dad needed a single stall restroom as he needed my Mom’s assistance. That restaurant didn’t have one so the Manager immediately stood in front of the Men’s Room and told my Mom to take her time to assist my Dad. When other guests came by to use the restroom, that Manager would apologize and told them to come back 5-10 minutes later. That Manager’s kind gesture left my family the most memorable dining experience ever.
I was backpacking through Peru a few years ago, traveling with an American I met along the way. We arrived in the seaside town of Pisco and had decided a few days earlier we wanted to try the local dish, ceviche, when we arrived. We asked the hotel owner to recommend a restaurant, a sensible move when dealing with raw, marinated seafood products, and he directed us to a little family run café off the town square.
After looking at the photos in the menu, picking out the words we recognized, and communicating with the staff in a combination of broken English and Spanish we ordered marinated sea bass, steamed scallops on the half shell in butter, and spicy octopus in a creamy sauce. We had a pitcher of what we thought was pear juice to wash it down, but after a few glasses we quickly realized there was more than just pear juice in there, it went down dangerously too smoothly. The entire meal was the most delicious I’ve ever had even to this day; full of rich flavours, wonderful textures, oh so fresh, and sinfully cheap for the quality we received. It’s a meal I’ll never forget and if I’m ever in that part of the world again will most definitely seek out.
It was New Year’s (by our calendar)in Tehran during the reign of the Shah in the early 70’s when the few Canadians there decided to meet with a group from the French Embassy for a New year’s celebration.
The embassy connection was established by an exotic French couple whose family owned a historic Cognac prodcing company in France , Le Couer de Lion and who were serving in Iran as government liason including liasing with the Canadian contingent.
The meal was incredible , prepared by a few guys who liked to cook..French style of course. There were rich sauces ,medallions , rice , lamb but the piece de resitance were frogs legs in herbs,, butter and garlic …in quantity.. , with champagne and Iranian caviar. Somewhere in there was the Cognac , which evaporated in the mouth before you could even swallow.
I have tried to find those delicacies over the past years in French restaurants but it never compares..to l’experience exotique.
My partner and I enjoy eating well and trying new foods and we splurge occasinally on a meal in a highly rated restaurant.
For a BIG birthday last month I took my partner to Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse. We believe in her phiosophy -locally grown, “food with a face”, in season and Gourmet magazine has rated Chez Panisse among the best in America in recent years. The meal was very good and we were glad to have paid hommage to the great Alice.
The following weekend we were back home on Pender Island and had dinner at our favourite restaurant -Pistou Grill, owned by chef Pierre Delacote. The meal was superb as it unfailingly is.
The seasonal curried fruit soup, followed by fork tender lamb shank with a sauce perfumed with lemon and herbs, local vegetables, and a lavender creme brule for dessert left us, as always, anticipating the next time. We truly have had the most memorable meals on our own little island at the Pistou Grill.
BAJAN BREADFRUIT ON THE BEACH
A wonderful family vacation in Barbados during Spring Break, 2006 concluded with an impromtu repas on the beach in front of the small inn where we were staying. Several young, typically friendly, Bajan fisherman who had befriended our family during our stay prepared hot breadfruit which was offered to us as we emerged from our “last swim of the holiday”. Wanting to contribute to the event, we raided our refrigerator. There was not much left after the holiday except for a dish of roasted garlic heads and a bottle of hot sauce!
The breadfruit,cooked on coals on an outdoor fire on the beach were cracked open and pieces were passed to all. Warm, comforting and very tasty1 We passed around the roasted garlic, which was initially viewed rather suspiciously by our hosts! The new experience of hot breadfruit for the Spencer family and roasted garlic for our Bajan friends,was confirmation, once again, how friendship and food go hand in hand.
My most memorable meal has a tie between two restuarants. The first is the Lobster Bisque at the Five Sails Restaurant at the Pan Pacific Hotel. I was proposed to at this restaurant, not by my current partner, the atmosphere was exciting and incredible – the waiter took our order after a bottle of white zin and I ordered the lobster bisque. The chef actually took the lobster meat out of the shell for me and positioned it above a mound of garlic mashed potatoes. The lobster melted in my mouth, my taste buds had never tasted anything so exquisite and tantalizing. The other restaurant was CRU and the meal was the Grilled Cesaer Salad…well oh my god – I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The taste of garlic heated in the salad was an eclectic aroma on my tongue – amazing. I would recommend these two restaurants to everyone and have!
My most memorable dining experience was some 33 years ago when my wife (then girlfriend) and I were poor UBC students. We decided to splurge on an exotic dinner and chose a little Spanish resstaurant in Gastown. It was midweek and early in the evening when we arrived and found the restaurant essentially deserted.
We were met warmyly and were seated a a lovely table between the two doors to the kitchen. From there on, it was like we were royalty. For the rest of the meal, the three or so waiters made a regular turn around our table like one of those european clocks where figures go round and round as the time passes. In one door and out the other. With each turn, water would appear and then an appetizer and then the wine. I don’t know if it was a game the waiters were playing, but no single trip around was accomplished without a warm smile and impeccable service. I do recall the paella was fabulous and the carafe of house red we could afford was served with respect and flourish. By the end, we were dizzy but feeling like royalty. I don’t recall any other customeres coming in, but by the time we left, we felt like we had been transported out of our “starving student” reality and into some kind of elite stratosphere. What fun!
At the end of a rain-soaked tour of an archeological site in Sardinia we asked for suggestions as to where we might find a decent Sunday lunch. We set out for the indicated town without consulting the map, thinking it would be a short distance. After 20 km of driving on a dubious road into the teeth of a furious gale past fields of sheep huddling pitifully against any slight shelter they could find we arrived at a hill-top town dating from Mediaeval times. Further directions sent us through wet, narrow, steep, twisting, cobbled streets to a rather nondescript building. Once settled in the charming interior we were helped by English speaking patrons at the next table to understand that the meal was a fixed menu.
I lost count of the courses Three pasta dishes, each small, delicate and wonderful, including one served in a cheese cup. Fish, veal and another meat, each with its breathtaking sauce. Salad. Ice cream with a liqeur of indiginous myrtle berries. After the meal I noticed a small table covered with restaurant guides; they were there to show off this restaurant’s rave reviews. Indeed it was treasure found at the end of an arduous journey.
My wife and I thoroughly enjoy traveling, and one of our favourite things about seeing new places, is the food. Now this is somewhat difficult as a vegetarian, since you often don’t know what you’re about to sink your teeth into. Certainly our favourite food city is Luang Prabang in Laos in southeast Asia. It’s not the rich coffee or freshly baked baguettes at the chic French cafes that dot the main promenade, although both are superb. No, it’s the night market.
My favourite meal comprised several dishes, each sampled from a different vendor, and we ate while squatting on the road where only ten minutes prior there had only been bicycles and cars. We perused the stalls of enormous pig heads, fresh Mekong fish and multicoloured jellies before deciding on an appetizer of freshly prepared spring rolls, crammed full of cilantro, garlic and carrots. We next wandered to a soup stall, where a jolly woman ladled out a huge bowl of steaming lemon grass and noodle soup for us. We helped ourself to the mounds of fresh sprouts and spring onions. Feeling surprisingly satiated, we crossed the street and sat on the wooden crates in front of a noodle stall. The woman behind the stove had only one plate, so after her other patron had finished, she casually wiped it with a dirty cloth, and piled noodles onto it. While the food we ate that night was fantastically fresh and tasty, the food was only part of the equation. Like Anthony Bourdain has said, “of course, I knew already that the best meal in the world, the perfect meal, is very rarely the most sophisticated or expensive one…context and memory play powerful roles in all truly great meals in one’s life.” Certainly that meal in Luang Prabang will be one I remember for the rest of my life.
The moment you announced the contest I knew which meal I was to write about. I, and my soon- to-be husband had spent two years volunteering in Thailand and on our way home we traveled through Nepal and China for three months. In Nepal we trekked over the 18,000 foot Thorong La pass while trekking the Annapurna Circuit. We ate lots of dal, and dal and more dal during those 21 days on the trek. When we were almost finished with our mountain odyssey we stopped in Phokara to rest for a day. It was at this time we were able to go to market day, albeit very small and purchase something that wasn’t dal! We found fresh bread, fresh cheese and a big bottle of beer. We took our newfound treasures down to the shores of the lake and had the most memorable meal I have ever had in my life. We laid our coats on the grass, we cut the bread and cheese with our trusty Swiss Army knife, which also opened the elixer of barley and malt. The mountains were looming in the distance, the lake shimmered in front of us, and the sun shone bright. We celebrated the previous 21 days and the love that would take us through the next 18 years (and counting.) We were not in a fancy candle-lit restaurant, we were in the most beautiful restaurant there is. Life was good and the simple fare sublime. Thank you.
My most memorable meal was close to home, at Snug Cove on Bowen Island. My husband and I had boated over from the Fraser River, taking advantage of a short weather window in the fall. The evening was clear and cold as we walked up the gangway to Doc Morgan’s Pub. Luckily for us, the local food festival was in full swing, and the restaurant was offering a wonderful sampler of seasonal dishes. We ordered roasted squash soup and seafood chowder, passing the bowls back and forth across the table. Who could resist the fish and chips? Halibut fillets in a light crispy batter and thin, elegant frites. My beef bourgignon was slow-cooked, full of mushrooms and succulent onions. It was so delicious, I almost licked the paint off the plate. A bottle of VQA wine did full justice to a well-cooked, well-seasoned and beautifully served dinner. Our table looked out over the harbour, where the lights of the waterfront homes illuminated the quiet boats. Almost too full for dessert, we shared a bread pudding topped with fresh strawberries, and then wandered home, happily, down the frosty boardwalk under a starry sky,carrying delicious leftovers!
Many years ago as a tender lad I was picking tabacco on the south island of New Zealand. A bunch of pickers from various farms chipped in together and rented a tour boat for a cruise up the coast and a bit of swimming. We were all young tanned and fit from weeks out in the fields picking tabacco leaves. After a day of watching huge manta rays swim under the boat and dolphins jumping at the bow we pulled into this little deserted bay and dropped the anchor. With the setting sun warming our backs we swam,waded in to the beach and started a fire. We had brought bangers and buns with all the fixins to toast over the fire when someone noticed a rock in the water covered with mussels. So we splashed out ot this rock and tore off a bunch of succulent mussels and boiled them up in a five gallon can filled with sea water. Someone had brought a pound of butter so we proceeded to gorge ourselves on bangers,buns and butter soaked mussels, lying on a white sand beach as the sun sank into the south pacific. It all tasted like food of the Gods. I grew up in the Yukon and had never had mussels before, and since then I have eaten in many great restaurants around the world but to this day, whenever I smell or eat mussels I am transported back to that memorable night 40 years ago when everything was good, anything was possible and magical experiences like that seemed only my due. Truly, once in a lifetime!!
I had been meticulously following The Zone diet for close a year and the only carbohydrates I ate were in the form of fruit, veggies and legumes.
After all this time and a considerable weightloss, I decided a treat was in order. My friend and I went to lunch at the (sadly now defunct) SoHo Village Bistro, a quaint, artsy restauarant in our neighbourhood. I scanned the menu and my eyes immediately fixated on the roasted vegetable pizza. (I couldn’t remember the last time I’d eaten pizza!) Oh my god, it was like biting into heaven! The veggies were caramelized perfectly, the crust was dense and chewy, the melted cheese mix was perfect.
I felt like I’d found the greatest meal on earth, in the form of a humble pizza!
While living in London in 1981, we went on a two-week trip to France and Italy, driving our MGB and camping from a very small tent. The idea was to use our vacation money to EAT and we had incredible meals.
However, at a small trattoria in Torino, we experienced true Italian warmth. Even though my husband mistakenly ordered brains the first night, the food was so tasty and the staff were so delightful that we went back. That first night, I had my first encounter with Tiramisu and this was now my third evening in a row ordering it. In my limited French, I asked the waiter about the recipe. The next thing we knew, the female chef and waiter were at our table with all the ingredients to make Tiramisu. We wondered how we would understand, with our very limited Italian, how to put these ingredients together, but the chef assured us that she spoke French and so there would be no problem, but that was the last French she spoke. However, with their gestures and enthusiastic Italian, we understood the recipe. We were all laughing, as were all the other customers. We have used that recipe many times and love telling the story of how we acquired it, years before Tiramisu became a staple dessert in Vancouver. But it never tasted as good as it did that night in Torino.
Lost and Hungry in Portugal.
While we enjoyed amazing simple food where ever we went in Portugal, one in particular stands out.
We had been travelling for about three hours and it was getting very close to lunch. What to do as we seemed to be isolated from any visible habitation. Over the hill appeared a small village. Aha! there must be a restaurant, cafe, something. Up and down we went an all we could find was an expresso bar. Finally opening an unmarked door we were greeted with an amazing local bistro restaurant run by a family. And they did not disappoint – wonderful, melt in your sole was served to us along with some vegetables but it was the sole that stood out. Five stars in my opinion.
After the late night dining of Montreal’s Peel and St. Catherine’s Streets, Vancouver’s absent midnight ‘haute cuisine’ nearly ruined our anniversary dinner — our first having just returned from La Belle Province. My wife and I came back to this jewel-by-the-sea after living through 5 winters out east. We thought we’d take in ‘Les Miserables’ which was playing at the QE Theatre on this balmy, mid-week evening in August. Since it was already past 6 o’clock, I called a couple of restaurants to book a table for 10:30 — after the play had finished, I figured.
“I’m sorry, sir,” the kind Maitre D said, “but we close at 10.”
“Uh, well, is there anywhere in the city where I can dine after 10?” I posed, by then frustrated that none of the six restaurants I’d called stayed open past the magic hour.
I was still used to the ebb & flow of French Canadian life where diners ‘dressed to the nines’ would gather after the cinemas were out. There, they’d sip their favourite wines while lounging on patios which lined the bustling streets. All this, at two in the morning.
“Hmmm, there is a small place I’ve heard of down near Denman Street. It’s run by some French guy. I think his name is ‘Terry’ or something like that.”
I thanked the young gentleman, took down the number and promptly set about to call. The show started at 7 and we were pushing 6:30 already. My wife, pregnant at the time with our first child, had nearly resigned her palate (and our anniversary) to some form of burger-on-a-bun when I told her about this French guy’s restaurant. I called and in short order the young lady’s voice at the other end assured me that “Thierry” would take our reservation as late as 10:30 (despite their official closing time of 10). Satisfied that we’d get some kind of palate-tickling experience after the show, we headed out. The show was good but long.
“Oh God!,” I thought to myself. It’s 9:30 and the curtain has just fallen for intermission. There’s no way we’ll make it to dinner. Aw heck, back to the burger idea. But, I thought I’d better call Thierry again just so he wouldn’t wait around for nothing.
The young lady answered again. “You figure it’ll be over by 11:30?” she asked. I said I thought so. Then, pause. After a moment, she came back to say Thierry would wait for us. He’d be delighted to make dinner for us after the show.
Well blow me down and call me Bambi. I was stunned. Deer-in-the-headlights stunned. We enjoyed the rest of the show and promptly headed over to Denman and Robson to find out who this Thierry was. We weren’t disappointed.
We walked in as the last customers were preparing to leave. Thierry was chatting it up with them all the way to the door. He then came directly over to us at our table and, with the ‘savoir faire’ of a country gentleman, welcomed my wife and me with wine and casual conversation. It was already past midnight and Thierry hadn’t made a single mention of dinner.
He sailed. Windsurfed. Cooked. Loved to eat (yet, he was all of a slender 5-feet-2). He had a girlfriend in Hawaii who he visited in the winter. I think he had another somewhere else. He loved to ski and snowboard and visited Whistler whenever he could get away. We told him of our experience in eastern Canada and how we came to be back in ‘Saltwater City’, all three-to-be of us.
Then, and only after having shared our respective life stories, did he gesture to the menu. It was nigh on 1 o’clock. My wife picked the Rack Of Lamb — I can’t remember what I ate (typical of guys on their anniversary, y’know). I just couldn’t get over the sheer luck of having stumbled onto this gem of a person and his passion for food. He rejoined us after personally cooking and serving the meal. We dined, sipped wine and mused over life’s meaning until nearly 3 o’clock. What an anniversary!
P.S. Thierry closed up shop a few years ago. I’d like to know where he went. Whether he’ll open another restaurant again. Then again, he’s probably somewhere warm, windsurfing to his heart’s delight. Bon apetit, mon ami.
– Tim Mah
For one year, I was fortunate enough to share a 5 bedroom house with 4 women. We got into the habit of hosting a lavish dinner every month, with each of us taking on the role of host/hostess. Being Japanese-Canadian, when my turn came, I planned the menu around traditional Japanese dishes. I asked two of my female Japanese-Canadian friends to wear kimonos and help serve the meal. We started with a steaming egg custard-like seafood soup with tiny bay shrimp and followed with an icy cold crab sunomo. The main course was beef teriyaki which I cooked in a chafing dish at the table. We washed it all down with hot sake. For dessert we ate fresh Japanese pastries with a sweet red bean filling, compliments of my mother.
This is my most memorable meal, not because I cooked the food, but because of my friends who helped me setup the atmosphere that I was trying to create.
Also, the company of good friends and good conversation made it a meal that I’ll always remember.
My Most Memorable Meal:
I do not remember eating my most memorable meal: it was the Xmas dinner of 1938 and I was only nine. My mother’s very large extended family always had Xmas dinner at our house which was small but with opening double doors and extending tables could easily accommodate 40 for dinner, so for me it was just one of a succession of large family meals. However by Xmas 1939 we were at war with very strict meat, butter, other fats, sugar – almost everything – rationing and no more of the quantity buying my mother, who had worked for a wholesale grocer, was so used to. All during the war my mother, her sisters and other female relatives remembered and talked about their Xmas dinner. I realized when I was an adult that it was one of the things that sustained these brave women all through the following six years of that long and terrible war. With constant bombing, husbands in far off places, dull food when you could get it (egg powder never tasted like eggs no matter what you did to it) and queueing, queuing, queuing for everything from rationed soap to the once-a-year orange, these women relived that meal and what a meal it was.
The huge turkey bought at Smithfield Market that had to be beheaded and gutted, the enormous roast of beef, the succulent ham, boiled at home but returned to the pork butcher to be skinned, trimmed and rolled in fine breadcrumbs, the two ducks for the uncles who did not like turkeys, the specially ground sausage meat with my mother’s own spice mix. The beautiful home-grown vegetables including a few tomatoes my father had picked hard green and then stored, wrapped in newspaper in dark secluded places all through the house. And the desserts – the puddings, the pies, the jellies and custards. The French glacé fruits, the Jaffa oranges from Palestine, the tangerines, only seen at Xmas time; the figs and dates from mysterious places, the bowls of nuts with silver nutcrackers and shelled nuts with raisins, Boxes and boxes of biscuits and candies. The immediate family stayed for at least two days as they always did at major holidays so there were pounds of bacon and dozens of eggs in the larder with the kippers and smoked fish and, of course, there were quanties of breads, rolls, and special “snacks” in case someone got hungry between meals. My mother died in 1944, the result of a war injury, my father was re-married and estranged from the rest of the family, and I was married and was in Canada by 1947 so we never had another large peacetime family dinner. Although I do not remember eating it specifically, I will never forget Xmas dinner 1938 because I relived it so many times with my own loving family and memories can never be stolen away
I hate clam chowder. My most memorable meal was New England clam chowder, full of those gray, briny, chewy, vile little clams.
After several hours of hiking and watching the sunset, we returned to our car atop Mount Erie. Inside the locked car were warm clothes, our cell phone, and regretfully, the car keys. As the darkness enveloped our shivering and famished bodies, we grew increasingly frightened. Several hours later, only because of good luck and a good samaritan, we found ourselves back in La Conner, Washington searching for food. It was very late. One tiny restaurant agreed to serve us clam chowder, the “soup de jour” while they finished cleaning up for the night. In ravenous silence we almost inhaled the creamy rich chowder, bursting with leeks, potatoes and of course, clams. As we wolfed down our second bowl, our growling stomachs grew quiet and the warmth began to permeate our weary bones. I’ve had many incredible meals in first class restaurants. But this was the most poignant reminder that food is first and foremost about sustenance and nourishment. I have often reflected on the many cold and hungry people in the world who would be equally as grateful, and find this soup just as scrumptous as I found it on this harrowing night.
Don, have a terrific time in Italy. You will be missed. And just for the record, I still hate clam chowder.
The history of my most memorable meal goes back 35yrs to 1971 when my husband was invited to dinner at the Haeberlin family restaurant Auberge de L`ill in the tiny hamlet of Illhaeusern 10miles north of Colmar in central Alsace and a few miles from the German border. His memories of that meal so piqued my interest that whenever I came across an article on the restaurant I made a mental note hoping that one day we might return there together. That opportunity came last year during a retirement holiday to France. Driving through the dreamy countryside we first observed the Auberge hazily visible through weeping willows that line the banks of the languid meandering river L`ill.
Jean-Pierre Haeberlin who had autographed the 1971 menu was still there – a sprightly mid- eightes, Maitre d`hotel, an artist who painted the lyrical watercolors for the menus, and architect who drew the plans for the elegant dining room. If I had expected gastronomic delights I was totally unprepared for the sublime and extraordinary food that was served during a six course degustation meal. Curious too, about what elements combine to give this restaurant it`s legendary status and such a devoted following. Auberge de L`ill obtained its first Michelin star in 1952, its second in 1959, and its third in 1967 and has maintained this rating of excellence ever since. The menu was composed of a series of dishes that were distinctly different yet the flavours of each merged and harmonized. Tastes and textures were complex and subtle. Sauces velvety and light with elusive nuances of flavour. Seafood dishes captivated with emulsions and foamy cloud-like toppings, and the presentations on fine white bone china were artistic and delightful. A creamy parmesan flan with swirls of a caramel port reduction and nuggets of succulent lobster in an emulsion of pink corral accompanied with a finger sized croquette crispy on the outside with soft mellow foie gras inside. A lightly salted scallop lay atop a bed of risotto in a sea-urchin creme with a wafer thin slice of Granny Smith apple curled up on the edge of the plate. Grilled to medium-rare thin slices of duck breast arranged in a rosette with a puff pastry case enclosing the confites and a perfect fan of endive braised in a delicate essence of orange. Surprises abounded – there were dazzling explosions of pure flavours and intriguing combinations. Each desert a dream. Pear Mirabelle sorbet in ice-cold vin nouveau. Poached peaches with pistachio ice cream in a champagne sabayon sauce. An ethereal green tea mousse served in a dainty cup. Throughout this three hour indulgence we were treated with impeccably attentive and friendly service. The 1971 menu we brought along caused great interest among the staff. Several dishes are still a house specialty today, however current prices are about ten times more. This experience was a humbling revelation of the degree and manner of skills required to maintain the highest standards possible and to elevate cuisine to a level of rarefied artistry. Truly a meal of a lifetime in one of the world`s great restaurants.
12 November, 2006
I can’t say that it was my most memorable meal ever, but one my family remembers with a lot of love. I was 6years old and my brother 5. We lived in Richmond, BC at the time and we would go home from school for our one hour lunch break. Mom would always have a hot meal prepared and waiting for our arrival.
On this particular day the lights in our dining room seemed to be very bright, almost glowing. We walked in, took off our coats and sat down. At the center of the dining room table sat one dish. Mom was quite excited. She proudly announced that she had a new recipe for us to try. She scooped up a serving each and anxiously looked into our eyes.
My bother and I simply sat and began to laugh. At the same time, we were both horrified. This fuchsia colored egg-shaped hash with white tentacles coming out of it stared out at us and all thoughts of feeding our little tummies vanished. We both refused to eat it. Mom was undeniably crushed and unfortunately would not allow us to return to school until we finished every single morsel of her unforgettable creation.
My most memorable meal happened while camping with my fiancée on a remote beach in the Baja. I would walk on that beach for hours, hypnotized by the glimmering waves and desert sun. One morning, in a place where I was sure I might be the only human for miles, I came across a lone fisherman. With salty hair and a gold tooth grin he walked up to me and thrust a whole shoulder of tuna into my hands! Treasure! Though I offered him money for this prize, he refused, demonstrating the kind of hospitality we often encountered in this part of Mexico. In my best Spanish I thanked him profusely and trekked back to our camp and immediately marinated it in a pacific-rim potion of sesame and olive oil, maple syrup and tamari.
Later that evening, heralded by the blaze of a resplendent Baja sunset, I gave thanks to the fisherman and the great ocean for surrendering such fine bounty. Digging in the bowels of the truck I produced a fine Pinot Noir I had been saving since our stop in Ashland, Oregon. I couldn’t wait to surprise my fiancée! While waiting for him to return from surfing, I seared the tuna over a mesquite fire. The result was pure alchemy; exquisite juices running down our chins, wine drenching our palates, sumptuous slurpings. Humpback whales and troops of pelicans serenaded us as they returned to their watery roosts on the silver waves. This was truly the most romantic and memorable meal of our lives.
My Most Memorable Meal is about sharing other people’s stuff and desserts
Unbelievable…My 35th UBC Dental Hygiene Reunion…where does time go? A highlight of our weekend was the dinner at Seasons Bistro. The meal was memorable not only for the delicious savory food but
also our brilliant waiter Ryan who provided us with exceptional service, he even had his wife helping serve the desserts. The ambiance was created by eleven of us sitting at a round table sharing stories while enjoying the spectacular view of Vancouver and Grouse Mountain’s twinking lights. It was wonderful to reconnect with Joan from Drayton Alberta who we had not seen since graduation, but felt that we hadn’t missed a beat since ’71’. We toasted Debbie and Lorraine who were on vacation, our dear Marilyn who we lost to breast cancer, and Chris Hansen who is missing in action and would love to see again.
Everyone in the group enjoyed their meal, whether it was the lemon herb crusted lamb; the fresh Queen Charlotte halibut, pan seared then baked and topped with marinated sun dried tomatoes; the red snapper with Cajun marinated prawns, and other tasty delights. I started with a delicious crisp Caesar salad. Mary’s first course was the tandori chicken salad which I sampled, exceptional…my taste buds went wild. The quality of the meal was enhanced with the Italian Pinot Grigio, Mezza Corona with a hint of citrus and the
beautifully balanced Cotes du Rhone, Guigal France. This special meal would not have
been complete without a decadent dessert but so many choices…so we ordered one of each menu item to share…so.oo.ooo GO..O…OD and FUN. All the desserts were
gorgeous to look at as well as to eat. This wonderful evening included my most memorable meal with friends that seem like family.
My most memorable meal includes all the essential ingredients: new and old friends filling a kitchen with laughter, stories, aromas, and the creation of a diverse assortment of exotic dishes. On this particular occasion it all started with a casual conversation ignited on a sidewalk in Halifax. My boyfriend and I were one month into our three-month cross Canada bicycle tour. While my boyfriend checked us out of the hostel I started chatting with a local Haligonian. To keep within our purse string budget we were on the hunt for a campsite in or around the city, and I was doing my homework by chatting up the locals. Our new friend started to brainstorm for tucked away city spots to pitch our tent. Soon he was inviting us to pitch our tent on his back porch, and eventually, after a quick check with his partner, we had a lovely spot on the zebra rug of their living room floor.
To our delight we did not only have luxurious shelter for the night but we were also welcomed into their weekly Sunday night dinner with friends. Soon it was evident that we had hit the jackpot; our host and his friends were all part of the local gourmet restaurant industry. They used every Sunday night as an opportunity to take a break from serving others, and to indulge themselves with the most exotic and delectable tastes. After four years of student living, and more recently the one month of eight hour days of cycling, the spread of sautéed mushrooms, asparagus risotto, BBQ chicken, and rich red wine was absolutely heavenly. To cap it all off we sipped ‘direct from Cuba’ dark coffee, and ate dark chocolate mousse. All attempts to be a gracious guest were overruled as I dug in for my fourth helping of the risotto, and sipped another glass of wine before diving into the desserts. Looking back I am sure we were quite the amusing pair to our hosts, both for our awe of the spread and for our insatiable appetites of the quantity and quality of gourmet dishes. For myself, it is a meal that will never be topped. The combination of a gourmet feast amidst a bare bones bicycle tour, and an intimate evening shared with new friends places that meal in a league of its own. It was during that evening when I first developed an appreciation for how gourmet food chosen with care, cooked with flare, and celebrated with friends creates a magical, unforgettable, evening.
A BAD CASE OF AVIAN STU!!
My most memorable meal occurred in Pisa, Italy over thirty years ago. My wife and I had just toured the Tower of Pisa and were ravenous for a delicious Italian lunch. We sauntered into a restaurant close to the tower. As I walked by the tables on the outdoor patio, I admired the cute little sparrows flitting around the chairs, chirping happily and picking up the crumbs under the tables. Inside, I ordered a stew they had on the menu. It came in a steaming crock pot!! I lifted the lid and to my dismay there was a little bird floating on the surface with its bare skull exposed
with sunken eyes, beak with tongue hanging ,a miniscule wishbone and little curled up feet. I nervously looked out the window at the outdoor patio and didn’t hear the cheerful chirping liitle birds outside. Well the menu was entitled FRESH SHEET!! But to me it was a bad case of AVIAN STU!!
A meal I will never forget took place 20 years ago, on a three week trip to the Soviet Union. After a long flight from Siberia, we arrived at our hotel in Tashkent,Uzbekistan, ushered into the diningroom, and served our meal – little metal bowls of broth and bones. No meat – just greasy bones ( probably goat, but we called them donkey bones – we may have been right). After much complaining, the bowls of bones were replaced by bowls of rice with a bit of meat. The meat might have come off those same bones, and may have been reserved for some dignitaries that were attending a conference at the hotel. They appeared to be having a much better meal than us – complete with wine and female “companions” who were making the dinner an enjoyable time for the dignitaries , and providing entertainment for us as we watched them.
The next morning we also noticed that the waiters, when clearing the tables, merely emptied out the used coffee and tea cups and replaced them, without washing , on the table for the next group of unsuspecting diners . The dignitaries had not yet appeared, no doubt the result of a very late night . I often wondered if their coffee cups would at least be washed.
Our entire trip had memorable meals, though memorable for oddity, not quality. When we ended our trip in Helsinki, we celebrated with a meal that included $8 soup – a LOT for 20 years ago – and we delighted in the food as if we had been starved for weeks. Not far from wrong.
In the mid seventies two friends and I decided to hike the West Coast Trail. As young men we didn’t know a lot about nutrition, that is carbohydrates. About day 4 we looked at our rapidly dwindling bags of granola and rice. We had taken small fishing rods in the hopes of catching a few trout but no luck. We were camped by a rocky point, so I thought what the heck, took a rod, walked out to the point, put a mussel on a very small hook and threw it in. Almost immediately I caught a two pound rock cod. Tried again and caught another.
Our dinner that night was smoky rice cooked on the campfire, seasoned with only salt and pepper, and fresh cod fillets skewered on sticks and seared over the flames. No tablecloths or wine, although we did have candles, listening to the breakers on the beach and staring at the stars, it was a truly delicious and memorable meal.
My most memorable meal occurred in Edmonton in 1997. We had just finished a two week canoe trip on the Taktu and Nanook rivers on the northern part of Victoria Island. The logistics for the trip had us flying out of Edmonton. We booked into a suite in the Hotel MacDonald to celebrate our return. The food on these trips was always excellent however; we were all looking forward to sitting in chairs and dining on something fresh, without the drone of mosquitoes.
The menus were perused and decisions made by all, except for my teenaged daughter. There was nothing on the menu that matched what she wanted. The server retreated gracefully to give her a bit more time. When he returned he took her order and then insteading rushing off, engaged her in conversation to extract her view of the perfect meal for the evening. It was a fairly simple request, fresh pasta with some seafood. He excused himself to consult with the chef and returned promptly to have her decide on the type of pasta and whether she wanted the seafood on the side or mixed in. All was decided and she was wide eyed, saying “I didn’t know you could do that, the only option I normally get is whether I want fries or not.” We had a wonderful evening. This meal has remained as a benchmark for me. I have found it rare for meals to be ill prepared, although some combinations in the search for fusion can be a little weird. This meal continually reinforces to me, that positive memorable evenings are generally not the result of one specific wine or plate, but the ambiance of the evening and consummate professionals at the front of the house representing the skill in the back. Maybe that is why some of Vancouver’s top restaurants stay on top while others come and go.
In the 80’s I belonged to a gourmet club of four couples in Ottawa. One of my favourite memories of that time is an Italian meal I prepared with five courses: Tagliatelle verde alfredo, Fegato alla venezia, salad, assortment of Italian cheeses and Zabaglione. I made the pasta from scratch: I mixed the Tagliatelle ingredients including drained cooked spinach and rolled it out like a huge piecrust. With a ruler I cut ribbons of pasta and draped them over my dining room chairs for the day to let them dry. What a picture! The white alfredo sauce was also made from scratch needing just the right consistency.
The Fegato alla venezia is calves liver prepared as they do in Venice: the liver cut with scissors into strips and cooked quickly at the last moment with onions, green peppers, mushrooms, red wine and parsley. The Zabaglione was also tricky with the warmth and consistency of the egg yolks and Marsala wine needing to be just right. Of that group, two couples have divorced, one friend has died, but that evening, we had a marvellous time. The memory of it makes me smile and reach for my Italian Regional Cookbook.
Almost thirty years ago, we went to Hawaii. We had little money, but because we were staying in studio accommodation, we could economize on breakfast and lunch, and splurge now and then on dinner. One day we found a restaurant in Lahaina called Rene’s, which featured some very exotic dishes, and we decided to blow the budget and booked a table for that night.
Rene’s was unusual for those days, in that the place was separated into semi-private areas, and our table was in a small nook with no other diners in sight. The chairs were upholstered with zebra skin, the tablecloth and napkins were linen, the flatware was silver, and the glasses crystal. The washrooms were equipped with heated towels and rows of bottles of perfume. No wonder it was expensive.
And what a menu! As well as the usual fish and steaks, it featured quail, pheasant, wild boar, elk, moose, buffalo, hippopotamus, and lion. I thought I’d be adventurous and try roast lion, but the waiter said he was sorry but they hadn’t roasted a lion that day, though I could have lion steak if I wanted. I settled for lobster. Soon after we had ordered, a very dignified gentleman arrived and asked if we wished any wine with our dinner. He was the sommelier, with a little device resembling a tiny silver frying pan hanging from his buttonhole. My husband asked for the wine list.
The sommelier looked affronted.
“I am the wine list” he said.
When he heard what we were having for dinner, he suggested a Graves, Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte. No price was mentioned; Lafitte sounded expensive, though the Smith part was reassuring.
He knew what he was doing: more than half of the entire bill was for that one bottle of wine.
Most memorable meal.
Only 23 years old in the mid 1960s, and with an innocent palate, I was invited with my fiance to a meal in one of the ten best restaurants in England. In an old stone farmhouse in the moors outside Manchester, it was owned by a French couple who had placed a red gingham-covered table in each of three small, whitewashed-wall rooms. It was in this simple environment that I experienced my first boeuf Bourguinon.
In the 40 years that followed, I have had many others, but this was the best. From the first taste, I could tell how much love and care had gone into the dish. In spite of my lack of experience, I was able to appreciate the delicate balance of herbs, vegetables and meat, and the perfect amount of cooking time and temperature used to bring out the best of every ingredient. This meal has been my life-long yardstick for cooking.
Way back in 1987 my wife Louise and I had left our jobs in New York and embarked on a year and a half trip around the world. In September we found ourselves in Edinburgh where we met up with my wife’s parents, Helen and John, at the Caledonian on Princes Street where they were staying.
My father-in-law is of Armenian background and, as was his habit in an unfamiliar place, picked up the telephone directory to see whether the city had much in the way of people of Armenian background. While doing so, he came across a listing for an Armenian restaurant called Armenian Aghtamar Lake Van Monastery In Exile.
The problem of where to go for dinner was now solved. We called up and asked for a reservation for six p.m. No was the reply. How about 6:30? No was again the reply. Seven was the only time we could come, we were told. But our parents have just got off the plane from Boston and we would really prefer to eat earlier, we pressed. The gruff voice on the other end relented and said, alright, you can come at 6:30.
We didn’t make it by then as we had the devil of a time finding it. Back and forth on the street we went until finally I walked into a car repair shop and asked one of the workers if they knew where the Armenian Aghtamar Lake Van Monastery In Exile happened to be. Aye, he replied.
Oh, great, said I. Where is it?
Are you planning to be eating there, he asked.
He’s quite a character, you know, the man said. Who is he, I asked.
The owner, he said, fixing me with a strange look in his eye. Well, it takes all types, he concluded and pointed across the street at what we had presumed was an abandoned church. Good luck to ye, were his final words.
Well, across the street we go and politely knocked on the unmarked door. Waiting a few minutes we got up our nerve and really walloped the heck out the ancient door. Finally, the door slowly opened to the sight of a dark entrance filled with footstuffs and a man with a distinct resemblance to Rasputin.
Follow me, he said. Tripping our way past bags of flour and old bicycles, he led us into a large room lit only with candles and sat us at a table. We were alone with no other guests. The man returned with some olives and wine and then disappeared once more. My mother-in-law and my wife decided to visit the ladies room but darted back to grab a candle. There’s not even a light in the bathroom, they said.
By the time they returned, Helen was totally freaked. I want to leave, she said. Who knows what kind of madman we’ve run into, she declared. Now, Helen, let’s just have a glass of wine and we’ll talk about it, said John. And so we did.
The next thing we know, a flood of diners starts coming into the room and by the crack of seven, not a seat was empty. Rasputin now turns into a whirling dervish and is everywhere at once, bringing drinks here, bringing appetizers there. We asked our neighbors, what do they know about this restaurant. The first thing we know, said they, don’t be late for the seven o’clock sitting. He’s been known to throw people out who arrive late. Here he hadn’t even bothered to tell us that there was a sitting.
To make a long story less long, the evening was the most memorable in a lifetime of travel and restaurant-going. Babakanoosh (eggplant), Harpeut keufta (stuffed meatballs) savoury leg of lamb. The dishes kept on coming and coming. Finally, after dessert of paklava, we were done. Or so we supposed. Get up, he cried and all of us were required to get up and stand in a circle. It’s time to dance, he said and into the circle he went and began to dance. One by one, he picked off a partner and brought them into the circle to dance. Even the shyest of the shy had to dance. Thus concluded the evening.
On a warm spring day in 1983 my boyfriend and I wheeled into the town of Piacenza in the Po river valley, Italy, starving, sweaty and in need of some serious sustenance. We were on the fifth week of our grand European camping bike trip and covering an increasing number of kilomteres a day. As our distances grew , so did our appetites! We were looking for a restaurant, any restaurant, for a quick bite, but none seemed to be open that Sunday. Finally we spotted a sign on a dusty door and entered in our bike shorts, Tshirts and associated messy gear, straight into a white linen tablecloth formal restaurant filled with the guests of a large wedding.
The proprietors didn’t blink or recoil in horror at our attire but seated us at once far at the back of the place. We each ordered a plate of pasta and waited hungrily but patiently for the tortellini and fettucini to arrive. Yet that instant, plates started to appear, magically … stuffed artichokes, prosciutto e melone, roasted eggplant and red pepper strips wrapped around luscious cheeses and herbs. The plates kept coming! One round of antipasti after the other, then the pastas, then some roasted meats and fish of every variety. When a slice of wedding cake arrived at each of our plates, a sponge cake filled with zabaglione and berries, we realized that the generous wedding party had decided to include us in their celebration. We raised our glasses to the party in front and exchanged toasts, first with our vin ordinaire, and then with the champagne that they poured for us in reply. What a feast. We were satiated and mellow and not eager to get back on our bikes, but started to move. The proprietor waved us back down into our seats and the piece de resistance appeared- a scoop of lemon gelato sitting inside a scooped out lemon, adorned with a lemon blossom. The sweet tart ice was just what we needed to get us moving again, and with smiles all around, we hit the road again. The name of the restaurant is long gone, but my boyfriend , who is now my husband – we’ve been married for 21 years) and I both say that this was the most memorable meal we’ve had… at least up to now.
My most memorable meal happened 13 years ago. I had the good luck of joining a Polish expedition to climb Choy Oyu, a peak on the Tibetan border with Nepal. Typical for this part of the world, most of our food was packed in bags and carried to base camp by yaks. Upon the arrival of the yak train in base camp it was noticed that one of the shaggy beasts was lagging far behind. After a brief negotiation between our leader Krystoff and the yak driver it was decided the straggler would join our expedition….. as food. As the scene that followed would turn most people to tofu, I shall omit it. Our Tibetan cook, Gumbu dressed the animal and dried the meat on the rocks surrounding our tents. Except it’s head which he left in the shade behind the cook tent. After two weeks of storms and exhaustion on the flanks of the mountain we had thankfully consumed all of Gumbu’s Yak creations, or so we thought.
We spent week three high on the mountain, fighting deep snow and loose rock only to be pushed back by one last monsoon storm. We returned to base camp hungry and utterly spent, but we were resolved to try one last time. The problem was that we were almost out of food. When Krystoff explained this to Gumbu, he proudly stated that he had a solution. Supper would soon be served! When the supper bell finally rang something smelled amiss. Gumbu entered the tent with a large pot of foul smelling liquid. “Soup!” he announced. I stared down at my bowl. Balls of flour competed for space with globs of fat, yak hair, and bits of cartilage. As tomorrow would be our last summit attempt, the need for calories usurped my turning stomach. One of my compatriots mumbled something in Polish and Krystoff leaned over with the translation “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. I closed my eyes and lifted my spoon to my lips. Try as I might I could not eat the concoction. Nausea finally over took hunger pain, and I excused myself. As I left the tent I looked into Gumbu’s kitchen. There staring vengefully from his largest pot was the yak head.