The Best Meals Of My Life

New Year's Eve fireworks in Paris
Oooh-la-la! This is how my tastebuds felt. Image via Wikipedia

Having just survived eight days of an all-vegetarian retreat — I may never eat field greens again! — it got me to thinking of the best meals (and, yes, drinks!) I’ve ever enjoyed.

The food we ate wasn’t bad at all, and in fact beautifully presented, healthy, full of vitamins. The cheese/fennel scones were perfect little pillows; the berry crumble lovely; the crispy green beans just the right color and texture…

But still.

Here are some of my favorite meals:

In a port-side cafe in Concarneau, Brittany, cold, fresh oysters, a baguette with sweet butter, tiny hot sausages and a crisp glass of Muscadet.

Street-vendor food in Bangkok.

My late granny’s Christmas goose.

My mom’s hamburger smash — ground meat, salt, pepper, carrots, potatoes — all mixed up in a frying pan.

The sweetie’s blueberry pancakes with, of course, real maple syrup.

A spectacular fish soup I ate on a frigidly cold winter’s day in Old Montreal — in 1987! It was that good.

The peach crumble with sour cream at Stash Cafe, also in Old Montreal.

On my first visit to England, when I was 12, eating clotted cream right from the bottle.

Some hellaciously good barbecue in Fort Worth.

At a rooftop party in Paris on New Year’s Eve, fistfuls of fresh oysters shucked right in front of us.

At Los Almendros, in Merida, a fish dish so good we went back the next night and ate it again.

The tiny perfect sweet mussels our friend Celia made for us for dinner when she lived in Paris, served on her rooftop.

The stew my Dad and I made in Ireland from mussels we picked ourselves from Galway Bay.

My friend Mary’s Brooklyn roof-top open-air feasts, with a bottomless tureen of lethal/delicious caipirinhas.

Hot, fresh churros with a melting chocolate center, bought from a Mexico City roadside stand our driver Gerardo took us to.

The spaghetti carbonara, eaten at the bar, at Morandi in New York City.

The tacos al pastor and homemade guacamole at Toloache, also in Manhattan.

My first pisco sour, at Carlin, in Lima.

At Casa de Piedra, a long-gone and lovely hotel in Cuernavaca, my first and unforgettable taste of sweet chestnut paste. Not to mention their enormous, salty home-made potato chips. (Here’s a link to a replacement every bit as lovely and charming, Casa Colonial.)

How about you?


20 thoughts on “The Best Meals Of My Life

  1. Mmmmmmmmm. Thank God I am currently eating while reading this – all of these foods sound delicious!! I just had the most delicious caipirinhas last week, served at a Brazilian restaurant in Portugal! The rest of the night instantly turned into one giant blur. 🙂

    My favorites have been a small bucket of home-stewed mussels all to myself in Belgium – cooked by a dear friend. “Rellenitos” (fried plantains filled with sweet black bean paste) in Guatemala. My mom’s homemade Chow Mein. David has an aunt that made the MOST AMAZING “Solomillo al Pedro Jimenez” when we visited her in Sevilla (I believe it is a sort of tenderloin cooked in port wine). And my mother-in-law’s “Cocido”, which is a sort of stew filled with meats, veggies, and other ingredients perfect for the cold winters we have here. Ah, the list could go on for ages. I am blessed to have such wonderful cooks in my life, seeing as I can be quite the disaster in the kitchen. 🙂

    1. Aren’t caipirinhas the lethal BEST? So easy to drink too many and later regret that.

      Your meals all sound yummy…I’ve never heard of homemade chow mein and rellenitos sound delicious! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Oh my this made me hungry! I want to visit all of these places you describe, and experience not just the tastes, but the environments they came from! Reading your blog feels a bit like traveling to me. I love it!

  3. You have so many great places you went to for great food! Going on a vacation and having food can be a hit/miss for me. When I went to England, while I loved it, the food was not a favorite of mine. One of my favorite dishes was, believe it or not, a grilled cheese/tomato soup in Las Vegas. It reminded me of my childhood!

  4. Best ribs I ever ate: random pub/hotel/restaurant in Belgium. Not in the American style at all, but tangy, heavy on the vinegar and absolutely to die for.

    Mum’s once a year standing rib roast at Christmas Eve.

    Also, Mum’s pumpkin pies (made exclusively from our Halloween jack o’laterns).

    Tao restaurant in Las Vegas on my honeymoon, amazing wasabi crusted tuna.

    Best breakfast: a bed and breakfast in Northumberland. My family was walking Hadrian’s Wall and this guesthouse had the most amazing sausages I’ve ever had in my life, I’ve never been able to find sausages like it.

    In Beijing, a restaurant specializing in just course after course of dumplings (some sweet, some savory, even a couple filled with SOUP!).

    Near our old home in Suffolk, stands Ely – home of the best fish and chips in Britain (voted and ranked).

    Vacationing in the Cinque Terre in Italy I was served the best pasta and pesto I’ve ever had…although I can’t lie, there may have been points awarded for the fact that I was taking supper right on the edge of the Mediterranean. I’m hardly an impartial judge!

    1. Officially sooooo jealous! Cinque Terre. Heaven! Love the variety of these and where you enjoyed them.

      Of all the places in the world I might have guessed you honeymooning, Vegas would not have made my list…:-)

      1. Me neither, but we were starving students and I’d never been to LV before, so why not! We made up for it and went to England for Christmas instead of a big trip.

  5. thisblonde

    Love how these are not only ingredients but atmosphere! CInque Terre makes everything taste better 🙂 My list is long but some highlights include — pulpo a la feira in Galicia, Spain; gallo pinto for breakfast in Costa Rica; my first ever haggis and steak & guiness pie in Edinburgh, Scotland.

  6. Lewis

    Caitlin, this topic is so relative to where and with whom that food or drink was consumed.
    For example:
    Favorite wines-anything that came out of my brother in laws’ wine cellars during family gatherings in Northern France, the bottle that kids ran across a field to give to us Legionnaires as we plodded through their vineyards in the South of France, my first taste of the idyllic pairing of chilled Sauterne and foie gras
    Food: Yes, like you Concarneau and Treboul for the shellfish but don’t forget the crepes and cider! And the fantastic Ligurian pesto in Cinque Terre on a seaside restaurant on a hill with a turret, clam pasta in Positano before renting our own motorboat which took us to secluded turquoise coves. And a whole freshly caught fish with a Singha in Phi Phi before the island became a tourist Mecca. A banquet of meats and biryanis at my hotel in Kathmandu after three weeks on the traileating lentils and ramen.
    Our impromptu wedding reception with friends in Palais Royale eating Stohrer petit-fours and champagne. Buying and taking a plastic Jerry can back to a local restaurant the next day which served it’s own wine from their Algarve vineyards. So delicious that ten liters didn’t last long once back in Ealing. Simple grilled shrimp with sea salt in Lisbon while listening to Fado.
    Croque Monsieur and tart Tartin in any paris bistro. Bistro hot chocolate on a cold day sitting on a terrace-a small pot of melted dark chocolate which you put into a large cup of hot frothy steamed milk. Walking home with my hot baguette and eating off the end. Gray’s hot dogs. Stan ate 12 at one sitting? Live fish taken from the tank for sashimi in Tokyo. A friend’s seaside house with rice-paper doors and sunken floor with a hibachi for warmth eating a bowl of mussels just harvested from the bay by the maid in a kimono.
    I could go on and on. I remember the flavors but also the situations and participants. Sentiment was the final seasoning which made these so special to me.

  7. Nope, never gambled, it doesn’t interest either of us, but we ate LOTS of food and saw LOTS of shows and enjoyed the general campiness of it all. Quite fun!

    1. Lewis

      I can live with”short”!
      We didn’t have enough time to discuss more at the time but I share your wanderlust. Have lived in and travelled to many places in the world.
      Made us great candidates to lead the crew at The North Face. But who, with some life experience behind them, would put up with the work environment offered by that company? You did a great job with the book.

  8. 🙂 I think I also said handsome, no?

    Glad the book made sense to you as well. In talking since then to many other associates and managers at other companies, I sadly realized what a gap there is between the public perception and the true reality at TNF.

    If you like, feel free to email privately. Would love to hear more how you’re doing.

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