I have a thought-provoking question for you. Na, not really, but… Have you ever had a truly memorable meal/s? Any outstanding breakfast, lunch, or dinner you had in the past that you will never forget about?
As for me, if you caught me unguarded and asked me, I would have immediately told you about two. Yes, there were plenty of wonderful meals in the past decades (no, I’m not that old), but if I needed to choose quickly without thinking about it twice, it narrows down to two. My only regret? Not taking notes of every little detail so I can remember them better for the rest of my life.
One took place about 4 years ago. We were visiting in Los Angeles and wanted to have lunch at Spago in Beverly Hills – the only restaurant in the world where I was willing to wait for a table. Oh, and we waited. Yes, we did. For 45 minutes. With a three years old who was having a “terrible three” tantrum. We foolishly did not make reservations ahead of time and the only reason I was willing to wait that long was because I totally admire the chef/owner Wolfgang Puck and I knew the meal was going to be an outstanding one. Minus the screaming 3 years old, of course.
I hate to wait for a table because 1) it’s a waste of my time, 2) with young kids it can be a real pain in the butt, and 3) it makes me feel like a groupie. I hate feeling like a groupie. But no worries, the ever heroic Suburban Cowboy took the screaming child for a little stroll to calm him down and hopefully put him to sleep in the stroller while I waited. Victory! The little guy fell asleep and stayed that way for most part of the meal and we enjoyed it quietly and tremendously. (He woke up just in time to have some of the the entrees and a dessert.)
Lunch at Spago was one of the handful of perfect meals I’ve ever had. And quite expensive too (although lunch cost less then dinner). I wish I had taken notes of everything little detail but back then I wasn’t so obsessed with these sort of things. I remember that I ordered a calf’s liver because I had to, for nostalgia’s sake! My mother used to make this (or was it cow’s liver?) when I was little and I did too when I grew up, but it always turned out grey and as tough and rubbery as a bottom of a shoe. At Spago I put my trust in the chef’s hands to cook it as he thought was best and let him, or her, have his way with my liver. It came out cooked to perfection, nice and tender, and sweet. It was a compensating and rewarding experience. The other thing I remember is the 12 layers of chocolate mouse cake. 12 layers! And they were perfectly and evenly layered. A masterpiece.
Reminiscing about this right now made me go and looked it up on Spago’s current menu and, what do you know, I found this:
SAUTÉED THICK CUT CALVES LIVER
Young Onions, Confit Bacon, Braised Leeks, Horseradish Potato Puree,
Crispy Tempura Onion Rings, and Mustard-Port Reduction
It sounds really good, doesn’t it?
And I bet that Suburban Cowboy had this:
CRISPY VEAL “WIENER SCHNITZEL”
Fingerling Potato Salad and Young Mache Salad
After a while I learned my lesson and started carrying a little notepad in my purse whenever I went out to eat. Just in case… you know… there will be something note worthy. Some of the notes that I took in different restaurants (If you have a recipe for any of them, do share):
Cauliflower and ginger
Swiss chard gratin
Mint and cherries
Whipped cream with fresh grated ginger
Duck prosciutto, pickled apricot
Walla Walla onion, rapini, truffled cheese (was it on a pizza?)
Kabocha squash, sweet potato, beancurd seeds, tapioca shreds, bean thread noodles, dates, cream, Vietnamese
Grilled papaya salad, grilled shrimp, caramelized pineapple, lime, Thai basil, mint, carrot
Crispy parsnip chips
and so on…
The second memorable meal occurred no more than a year ago, I’d say, during a trip to Portland, Oregon. We had dinner with friends and all our kids (a total of 3 little ones) at iOba. What started out with a potential to be a disastrous evening – I was in a bad mood, the kids impatient, we were hungry… – turned out to be a perfect evening due to the charming waiter and fab food. The waiter inflicted a good mood on us which helped us unwind. The two tasty alderwood flower cocktails I sipped helped too. And the food was outstanding; a Nuevo-Latino cuisine, one of my favorites, with a rainbow of exciting flavors. But what I loved the most, and remembered for a long time after, was their fried rice, a dish I never ate before, that had so many ingredients, flavors, textures, and hidden secrets in it. On the surface it sounds like a simple dish, unlike a tamale, for example, but it’s deceivingly not. It’s one of those simple looking dishes you think you can make at home to find out later that you can’t. iOba’s fried rice was absolutely amazing. The good news are – good for me, I don’t know about you – that we are going to eat there again soon and the rice is still on the menu! Yay!
puerto rican style fried coconut, jasmine rice with ginger, corn, plantains, avocado and cilantro
I think I’ll ask them for the recipe next time I’m there. Maybe they’ll share their secrets. It’s worth trying…
In the meantime, I tried to make something inspired by it at home. It was weeks ago when I saw the rice pilaf post on Ju’s blog, The Little Teochew, and it reminded me it was time to make one myself. So I made lots of rice so I have leftovers the next day to make fried rice.
So, what the best meal/s you have ever had?
iOba-inspired fried rice
This fried rice was very easy to make and an excellent way to combine all kinds of leftovers into one fantastic dish.
leftover yellow rice cooked in coconut milk (see recipe here, use 2 cups coconut milk + 1/4 cup hot water)
leftover roasted cauliflower and carrots, chopped
frozen peas and carrots, cooked in microwave
frozen corn, cooked in microwave
toasted pine nuts and walnuts, chopped
fried in olive oil, leftover bacon/chicken fat
a splash of soy
If you have it, add:
a scrambled egg/s is always nice
crispy bacon bits
minced garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste